Yosemite and self alienation

At 47 degrees Celsius , Death Valley was a little uncomfortable, to say the least! My flip flops began to melt on the crusted earth if I stood in the same spot for too long, spiky grass sliced into my feet and ankles as we made our way out onto the salt flats, even the car was having a hard time.  Struggling to keep the engine cool with the suppressing heat, the car started pumping the smell of gas through the AC and providing everyone with head aches. No air travelled through the windows and without the air conditioning, we slowly baked alive. The engine sputtered and stalled a couple of times as we mentally prepared ourselves for a breakdown followed by swift death from dehydration.

Miraculously, as we climbed into higher-ground, gulping in the fresh cool air whilst the car found it’s wheels once again, we lived to fight another day, and of course, a fight it would be…

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The boys, not recovered from the heat of Death Valley insisted on turning the air conditioner on the motel room. It was noisy and plunged the room into a nuclear winter. Blonde grew angry and with it, restless. A short war raged based entirely of turning the thing off and on, a battle Alaska won but at the cost of Blonde’s patience and the rest of our ears as she shared her complaints. Enraged by the discomfort, Blonde trekked back and forth to the loo, to the car for a sleeping bag, to dig out more jumpers from her bag. She moaned, sat bolt upright in the bed, pushing the covers back with an elaborated sigh as she shredded and then reapplied the jumpers “can you just settle! Everyone else is trying to sleep!” somebody called into the dark, it was probably me.


She finally fell asleep around 2, I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to finally succumb to that beautiful place of rest. Blonde had other ideas. A soft rippled of snores erupted, growing louder as she fell deeper. I was convinced she’d was doing it on purpose to torment me, she rarely snored, they only ever came out when I was really, really tired. Geo joined her and before long the room was a chorus of other people’s dreams, even Alaska had rolled over, his hair falling on my face as hot tainted breath blew loudly in my ears.

Blonde wasn’t done, with the creeping dawn, Blonde rose repeatedly to go to the toilet, I was beginning to question her bladder control as she stumbled over bags, pulled light cords, slammed bathroom doors and let the fans whiz and clatter into noisy action. Finally, finally with the morning sun sneaking through the curtains, the world fell silent and with it, blissfully, sleep came.

And then Blonde’s alarm attacked the room. She was up bashing about in no time, opening the front door to flood the room with aggressive light, sunbeams prising at my eye lids. I pulled the cover over my head and cursed the world. How I hated her in that moment.


I was grumpy, oh so, so grumpy. I reached out to Alaska, wanting to be consoled at my loss, my dear friend sleep, forever missed, never enough time spent together. Alaska misread the signals, pointing his dick at me instead. I pushed him away, even more irritated, a rejection that sparked an argument.

My feet rested on the dashboard, body sunk low in the passenger seat, reading the message Alaska had fired through.

When I don’t act the way you expect or the way you want me to, then you need to communicate it. Which you did well enough. But not recognising your part in the fuck-up is childish and immature. I’m not going to apologise for what I said, I was right about the way you venting frustration at me, when you should have been yelling at Blonde. You venting is fine, but attacking me because of your issues is not ok. Period. I will always call you out on it. I’ve had enough of that in my lifetime to where I refuse to put up with that shitty behaviour. This is something that I’m not going to back down on, so argument is moot. Venting = ok; attacking Alaska when someone else deserves it = not ok!” I wasn’t really in the mood to be reasoned with but he probably had a point, not that I was going to admit it to him. I had been a bit shitty with him after all.


I could hear him type out another message, which buzzed through before I had a chance to reply. “I still love you and will keep loving you. In the shower this morning I was thinking about what you said about me giving up everything for you if I moved to the UK and you not wanting me to do that. I don’t see myself giving up anything. I see it as being able to be with someone I love. It’s not a sacrifice to go hungry, to get possibly some of the shittiest jobs in my life before finding one that has me contributing as much as I should and want to towards our relationship”.

I love you very much, and unfortunately the only way I seem to know how to express it to you is to continuously throw myself into the void. Whether you want to take that leap is still a fear I have and will openly admit. If you want to talk more in depth about it later I’m here for you” my hands tightened around the phone, I didn’t want him to move to London, I didn’t know what I wanted!

He’d been trying to broach the subject of us living together for weeks, a conversation I’d been avoiding, telling him that we should both go to our separate homes after the trip and just see how things went. I felt trapped and misunderstood, he’d completely misread the mornings fight, my fingers went to work on the phone keyboard.

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Last night, before we went to sleep, you were very huggy and not in a sexual way, so I we hugged for a long time. This morning I was agitated because I was very tired. I wanted comfort from you and went to hug you, you didn’t instantly respond so I twisted your nipple. It was meant to be playful but perhaps it didn’t come across that way? What’s not on, is the second Geo and Blonde went for a walk, you tried to have sex. You didn’t even hug me! You just went straight for it. I wanted comfort and it felt like you just wanted sex. There was no affection, hugging, kissing, just you trying to poke me! Fine, if I didn’t communicate what I was wanting and you interrupted it as something different but regardless, even had it been sex, the way you went about it felt disrespectful and made me feel cheap and uncomfortable, none of which you even recognised!” I paused, looking at the grey cloud in the wing mirror, it had been chasing us since we’d woken.

Yes later I was angry at Blonde for using all the hot water and ruining sleep and not apologising or even realising. I vented to you, wanting support but you just got annoyed at me. All I wanted was to be hugged and told it was ok but you tried offering me solutions which only frustrated me so I lashed out…and you lashed back! You really lashed back!”


“You yelled at me and then slammed the door in my face! Then you sent Blonde to come and see me as I was packing up my things, telling her I wanted to have a go at her! It is not your place to intervene in Blonde and my irritations at each other! It is NEVER your place to force a conversation or argument between other people! How dare you tell her to come see me and that I needed to ‘vent’ at her! I will have a conversation with Blonde on my own time, in my own way. You do not get to decide when! We’ve had this fight before, it’s not up to you to dictate my actions, you know I hate that! It feels like you’re trying to manipulate and control me, instruct when and how I do things” I took a deep breath, there were too many words to say all the things I really thought.

“I yelled at you when I came down to the car for sending Blonde up. That eruption was nothing to do with not having got enough sleep or being annoyed at Blonde, it was entirely about you sticking your nose in and trying to force my hand! You didn’t like me standing up for myself against you or pointing out that you’re controlling. When I said this you screamed at me. I yelled yes but I’ve never been screamed at the way you did. You lost all your patience and it scared me. I got in the car to get away from you and you leaned in the other side, continuing to scream at me, in public with people staring and then slammed the door in my face again! Why would I want to be with someone like that?! I told you to leave me alone because you were scaring me, I even put my head phones in to block you out and you just kept standing there, yelling”.


“I switch between thinking maybe we could be something and then getting completely freaked out when you act like this! I never want to be with someone who gets so angry, slams doors, makes me feel cheap, or tries to force my reactions. I don’t want to be in that kind of relationship! And if you’re like that, even if it’s your way of fighting back at me when you think I’m being unreasonable, then I don’t want it. I don’t want you if you’re that person. Half the time good isn’t enough” I bashed send, watching the rain drops speckle and race each other on the windscreen before the wipers ended the game early.

His reply came through a short while later. “I was huggy last night and you pushed me away when you got bored of it! This morning I misread what you were doing as playing, to make up for yesterday, and I thought I was playing back. I’m sorry that I made you feel cheap. That definitely was not my intention, my intention was *poke* and then you going ‘stop, behave yourself’. It makes me smile when you bat my advances away. I didn’t mean for it to appear that I was forcing myself upon you. I knew we wouldn’t be able to have enough time for sex, but we would have at least had some playful banter”.

I was tired this morning too. You looking for comfort was fine and me offering solutions was me not being in the right head space considering that I wanted to get packed up due to always being last to cover for your packing” This annoyed me, I’d gained a reputation as being the last ready in the mornings but this had rarely been the case, it was pointed out early in the trip that I was always last out, ever since I’d been making effort not to but yet, the blame remained at my door no matter who was to blame.

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I read on “Contributing to the lack of being in the right head space is I don’t see us having much space when we all go to Mexico and Cuba together, for us to be us and be together. Put that along with trying to figure out how to make things work for London being another issue that is still in my mind” I bit my tongue, as much as Alaska tried to discuss him moving to London, I always remained relatively quiet on the subject, largely convinced the intensity of the road-trip would fade away and we’d all start to see things in a different light.

This is the first time, I feel, that I’ve honestly yelled directly at you. It’s very significant and I want to make sure to highlight it. We’ve fought in the past, but I’ve never been pissed off at you. Frustrated, yes, pissed, no” I rolled my eyes, why was he making such a big point of this, it was all getting so dramatic.

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The main reason for yelling I already expressed in the previous message. The other contributing factors though is the way you feel about being controlled is exactly the same as how I feel about being controlled. You treating me as a lapdog and getting upset when something doesn’t go your way. For example, when I said in Vegas that I might go to Pheonx instead of continuing on to San Francisco, of not comforting you when you’re in the wrong or when I’m upset or frankly just not in the mood, makes me feel like I’m being manipulated. These are things that grate on me. I’m there for you but you seem to be setting double standards if things don’t go your way. This is how I feel”.

Last night you expressed wanting to be free but that I wasn’t allowed to be free. That was completely fucked up, we both know that. The reason we both work is that we both know that we trust and love each other and can be free with no worries about the other person straying but to put restrictions on the other person is a HUGE fuck no” I bit hard into my lip to avoid turning around and smacking him on the head.

We’d been joking the night before when I’d said at the end of the trip we should just see how things went, no pressures, that I wanted to feel free to find my feet again but that I’d be pissed if he just went home and shagged about. It had been an off hand comment that he’d said nothing about at the time, and now here he was making out it was a major factor in our relationship. I wanted to throw the phone out the window and Alaska along with it, instead, I read on.


You crossed the line and didn’t even recognise it or flinch to correct it. We are both free and can do whatever we want, because I’m yours and you are mine. But you didn’t do anything to fix what you said” ughhhh I am NOT yours and I don’t want you to be mine, I internally screamed.

Forcing the convo was me venting to Blonde and literally saying ‘fucking talk to Becky, she’s in a mood because of last night and lashing out at me. I am not fucking dealing with it right now’. Geo laughed when Blonde went up the stairs. I asked him what was so funny and he said ‘when you guys are married it’ll be like this all the time between you’ which I said ‘I’m not in the mood right now to hear that, it’s not funny’. I have every right to be upset right now but will apologise for the way I made you feel cheap this morning and will also apologise for appearing to ‘force’ the conversation with Blonde but everything else is on you. I’m still angry and will probably calm down in half an hour or so. Love you and hate that you feel as torn as you do, due to the argument (which I will entirely own and have been mostly my fault the rest of the time. Talk to you later and love you skunk breath” he signed off with an emoticon, I wanted to punch it and him.


A wise person might have left it there but I was not wise, plus I wanted to address all the inaccuracies of his message, most importantly however, I wanted to have the last word! And so, my fingers danced…

I only pushed you away in the hugging last nigh when I wanted to go to sleep. I’ve told you before, I find it hard to sleep when someone is breathing on my face and hugging me. I like my space. You insisted on hugging all evening, we hugged for hours! I just wanted a little space to sleep, that’s not pushing you away, I certainly didn’t feel the need to ‘make it up to you’ this morning!”

Always covering up for me being late in the mornings?! Fuck you! I wasn’t even last yesterday, that was Geo! And Blonde the day before that, and you the one before that! In fact, apart from today I haven’t been late in weeks! Do not try and make out you’ve been covering for me!”

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“And I do not treat you like a lapdog! That’s so unfair! You vent your frustrations about Blonde to me, but where I might complain about trivial things, you go far deeper calling her stupid, spoilt and saying things that really are quite mean! You aren’t nice in how you talk about people. You confide in me all this ‘poor you’ stuff, it’s always how you’ve been dealt a bad hand in life, how tough it was growing up in a broken family and that no one ever loved you, you even told me you’ve had it far worse than me or anyone else”.

You’re so stuck in this martyr act and you put it all on me to pull you out of it and cheer you up. You say all this stuff as if I’m suppose to save you, it’s SO much pressure and I can’t live up to that kind of expectation. It’s too much to put on one person. Loads of people come from divorced homes, feeling guilty for the pain of the break up they see in their parents faces, no teenager ever feels wanted, that’s just how teenagers feel, but you have so many people around you who care and all you do is push them away. And you think your pain is worse than other peoples? Pain isn’t comparable, what counts is how you move on. So when I say things like I did last night about wanting freedom when I get home, you think I’m being unfair to you. But I’m trying to protect myself, to keep you at arms length away because I don’t want you to expect too much and then I not be able to deliver. I was trying to lighten the mood by making a joke but you take it all so seriously. You take the words for the words, never hearing what’s truly being said”.


Also fuck you about Phoenix! Yeah I didn’t want you to go and yes that spiralled into a fight because we always do. We went through that fight we don’t need to go through it again!  I said go to Phoenix. I said go because I didn’t want you deciding to stay being used against me later on. You said you would never do that and it was entirely your decision whether to stay or go. I said you would use it against me in a fight. And you, you promised you never would…you just fucking brought it up in an argument, just as I predicted! You’re so fucking out of order! You can’t be trusted!”

Yeah sure, be upset, yes you have every right. Fine if you felt I was lashing out at you for things you didn’t do. I was lashing out half for Blonde and half for you! You didn’t see your part and then you retaliated. You tried to forced a fight between me and Blonde. I snapped at you for that and then you really went for me like I’ve never seen before. But yeah, sure, you get all upset but when you decide you want to kiss and make up, I’m suppose to suddenly be fine. You try to control me. I will not be controlled, not by you, or by anyone!”

‘Leave me the fuck alone!’ I yelled inside again, all the world crashing down around me because right there on that road trip, the car was the world.

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The conversation lasted the entire drive to Yosemite National Park, one of the most famous parks in America. We’d been looking forward to a hike, some fresh air and a few hours away from the car….typically it was raining. It always rained when we got to a national park, possibly a good thing considering I wasn’t in the mood to climb a mountain, all I really wanted was a very long nap in a private hotel room, away from everyone else, maybe followed by a few cosmopolitans too for good measure! I’d probably have been a much nicer person for it.

With a break in the clouds, Blonde and Geo, left for a short meadow loop walk, keen to get away from the building tension between Alaska and I. Unable to communicate, we only inflamed each other further until he told me all the reasons why no one would ever love me and slammed his exit from the car.


I wanted to drive away. To leave them all, I inched to take to the open road and never look back. I didn’t know these people, not really, what did I care, in a few years they’d discuss that crazy Brit who ditched them in Yosemite but what would I ever know of that conversation, why should I care?! I should go, fuck em all! Fuck Blonde and her stupid sleep ruining antics, fuck Geo and his, well Geo hadn’t really done anything wrong other than sucking up to Blonde always on her side, whether she’d was in the right or not, yeah fuck Geo too. AND FUCKKKKKK Alaska! Of course there is someone out there who will love me, all of me, the good and the bad. I’m not the miserable person he insisted I was! It’s not me ruining the trip for everyone, it’s them! It’s everyone else!


I spun the car away hearing the wheels scream as I pulled on to the road, zooming for the park entrance. I knew I couldn’t leave them for good, as much as I wanted to, I didn’t have it in me to be that callous, plus that would have involved emptying all their stuff from the boot and I was a little worried the pile of bags might get stolen while they walked, that and I was far too tired for such exertion. But, I needed to get away just for an hour or so, to clear my head, to breath, the pressure on my chest was so heavy.

My hands clung tightly to the steering wheel as I tried to catch my breath, short, raspy gulps whilst anger roared over me in waves ‘fuck em, fuck him, fuck everyone. I hate this. Why am I here! Why am I with them. I need to call someone, I want to talk to my mum, I want my mum’. And with that the sky tore open again, raining down with the tears on my face. The car slowed as guilt rippled through me. I turned the car around, ashamed to be leaving my friends in the rain, pulling up at the entrance to the meadow walk where I left them.

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They didn’t spot the car, walking part as I cried, staring at pictures of my mum on my phone and feeling entirely consumed ‘why am I not over this yet, when will it end! I’m soooo tired‘. The hail began to fall so I drove the ten yards to the visitors centre where I could see them watching the rocks fall from the safety of the centre’s balcony. I watched them laughing and joking with each other, the storm overhead increasing, drowning out the sound of the stereo until I was left with nothing but the beat of the outside world.

I tried to beep the horn, so they’d know I hadn’t left them, that I was here but the hail stole the sound. I text them and called but their phones went unnoticed and eventually even the mobile signal gave up on me. There’s nothing worse than being so close to people and feeling so alone, especially when you’ve built the walls yourself.

Finally they spotted me but the hail fell like bullets, leaving no choice but to wait it out. The storm increased until I could no longer see. I stayed in the car.

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When I was a very young child, my father would have the news on, watching it behind a newspaper. The stories filled the screen with pictures of war in far off lands. I later learnt these were civil unrests in Eastern Europe. IRA bomb attacks and protests for Thatcher. I didn’t understand any of it, standing there in my nightgown, still a little too big for me, the fabric puddling around my feet, hiding my toes from the ground.

In my child like naivety, I wanted to speak to the Queen, to ask her to fly me in to the trouble – even at three years old I wanted to be in the centre of the drama! I thought, if I could just be there, in the middle of all the angry people somehow I’d be able to make them see that their fights were silly and they needed to learn to share their toys. All would be better after a bedtime story and a good nights sleep. I thought it was that easy.

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Vegas weddings and the alien brothel

Going to the chapel and I’m…gonna get mar-a-arrriedddd’ fake church towers, neon flashing  signs and giant hearts blurred past the windows as we entered Old Vegas.

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“Do you want to be Best Man?” Blonde enquired, turning to Geo. “Err what?!” I interrupted “hang on, it’s our wedding!” my hand waved between myself and Alaska “you don’t get to decide who’s in the wedding party!” I announced. Blonde only smiled “yeah, but what other choices do you have?”. I had to admit “well you have a point. I guess that makes you Maid of Honour then?” I glanced at the Little White Chapel across the street.

‘It’s not real, just a Vegas wedding, they don’t count, not in England, it’s not legal. It’ll be fun, Elvis might be there…’ I rationalised internally. “Errr, ok, well, I guess we should do this then…” I added, sounding more sure that I felt. “I’m up for it” Alaska laughed, everything a game to him. “I’m getting a frozen coke first!” Blonde insisted, clambering out the car and disappearing into the 7Elleven.


An argument similar to the one between Blonde and myself a few days earlier would usually have derailed a friendship to weeks of the silent treatment at best and serious questions over the continuation of friendship at worst. We’d conducted the argument over text message, thus removing a level of confrontation that neither of us felt quite brave enough to face. Well that, and if we let the words hang out to dry, we might really mean them and we just weren’t quite ready for that.

Everything was magnified in the car, every action a personal slight or the funniest exchange. We laughed till our sides hurt and rolled our eyes at each other in equal annoyance. The wonderful thing about travel however, is that arguments blow over with the sunrise. The next day we continued on as though the fight had never happened, or at least that’s how it appeared on the surface, internally Blonde harboured growing hurt at my increasing irritation and I continued to gnaw at my severely bitten tongue.

In an effort to experience the ‘real Vegas’ we booked ourselves into a hotel on the strip for our last night. Geo, who was easily convinced to remain on the trip until as far as San Francisco, checked into a room with Blonde.

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Alaska and I, finally finding ourselves entirely alone for the first time since meeting and with no risk of being disturbed, did what any new couple would do when faced with such an opportunity! That’s right!… We took a nap.

Ok fine, we had sex! Really awkward, this is pretty shit, staring at the ceiling, can you just finish now, kind of sex. It’s not that I didn’t like Alaska in that way but where I should have been lost in the moment, the reality was, all I could think about was his comments on my physical appearance. The words he’d said in anger about finding me fat and unattractive still burned bright in their memory making me conscious of his every touch.

‘Oh no, don’t touch there! That bits squidgy! No! not the stomach! Ughhh oh god, the hips are the worst bit, go back to the stomach! Actually no! I’m just a sack of lard! I am so not comfortable right now! Do you think we could possibly have sex without touching? With the lights out? Maybe if we could get drunk first? Or how about I just lay here and not move?’.

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So I did what I’m sure thousands have done before me, I pretended all was well because it really wasn’t him after all. It was entirely down to how I felt about myself, having lost layers of self confidence and with no one to go to for reassurance to help me build myself back up, my self worth had slipped pretty low.

“Oh yeahhhh,….that was amazingggg! Great sex! The best! Best sex ever! Loved it! High five?”. I laid there, waiting for sleep, riddled with guilt for failing as a girlfriend and wondering if I’d ever be able to find enough conviction to make this relationship work.


“This place is cool!” Alaska announced the next morning as we pulled on our hospital gowns and settled in for a meal at the heart attack grill. “I forgot we were coming here for lunch, I’ve already eaten” Geo declared, reviewing the menu “I could eat though…”.

A nurse approached the table “what can I get you guys?” she enquired, pulling up a seat and leaning forward in her tight costume. “I’ll just get a chocolate shake, double ‘quadruple bypass burger’ and some fries…” Geo announced. “Ummm you do realise the shakes are made with butterfat? They’re like 3,500 calories each!” I asked Geo, wondering if he’d actually read the menu.

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“4000 and they’re served with a lump of butter on top too!” the nurse corrected. “Umm I’ll go with the hot-dog and a shake please” I asked mentally totting up the 7000 calories for my meal. Once we were finished ordering the nurse turned to leave before hanging back “You’ll know that if you don’t finish your meals you get spanked right?” she winked as a loud cheer erupted from the other diners.

A man was pulled from his seat by a nurse and taken to a wall where he clung to a metal rail. We watched in horror and amusement as a midget nurse swung a paddle at his behind. This was followed by a series of nurses who each took their turn in blistering the poor man’s cheeks. As his yells of pain amused the other diners, I calculated Geo’s meal. “You know you just ordered 15,000 calories of food right? You’re so going to get spanked!”.

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Sweat dripped from Geo’s brow as he alternated between the butter fat shake and lard fried burger. My own meal sat heavy in my stomach, I’d forced down the last few bites, determined no waitress was going to bruise my ass! My body would spend the next few days working through the mass of calories, no inclination of hunger was felt again until we reached Cuba a couple of weeks later.

Defeated, Geo made his way to the spanking supports. The paddle whistled through the air before landing with a sharp thwack. Again and again the paddle swung, finally Geo hobbled back to us, a slight elation creeping at the edges of his features.

“Good on you” Alaska praised, “it wasn’t too bad actually” Geo decided. Alaska shot a wink at me “oh really? Almost sound like you enjoyed that!” I teased. “You did!” Blonde joined in to Geo’s protest. “Is your bum bruised?” Blonde continued as the cheeks on Geo’s face grew red, I presume to match those of his arse. “Come on, show us!!” Alaska encouraged. “Shouldn’t we get going?” Geo attempted a change in conversation.


With bloated bellies, we waddled away from the restaurant, ambitiously trying to walk off our gained pounds…and for one of us, swollen bum cheeks!

Old Vegas was filled with wedding chapels, the little white wedding church made famous by various celebrity couplings, signs for Elvis as the minister, pirate themed receptions, drive through ceremony….they had it all! It was a world that felt both naff and charmingly nostalgic. The sugar/lard influx had sent us all into a rather loopy mood, somehow it was decided Alaska and I should visit one of the venues.

“They want to get married!” Blonde leaned across me to yell out my window at the lady in the booth. We’d chosen the Little White Chapel drive through branch, a wedding ceremony that didn’t even require getting out of the car, for those really in a rush (or too weighed down by burgers to be bothered walking down an aisle). I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d agreed to, it might be nice to be married, my friends seemed to enjoy it, but then, they had been in love with each other to begin with, that was probably important?


‘What if this is my only chance to ever get married? Who wants a wedding anyway? Ugghh I’d hate to make anyone feel even a hint of how Bridezilla made me feel! Plus without Mum to walk me down the aisle or drink champagne at the dress fitting or sit on the top table with me, well…what’s the point in having a big do anyway!  A normal wedding someday would be far too painful to get through! And who’d marry me anyway! ….hmmm Alaska wants to, maybe I’ve had the whole love thing all wrong? I’ve been looking for one of those Hollywood love stories, with sweeping gestures and butterflies in the belly. What if love is completely different than that? Perhaps I could grow to fall in love with Alaska? Hmmm, yeah, this is good idea, yeah, I can definitely get married in Vegas! What could possibly go wrong? Solid plan!’ I mentally concluded, turning to face the lady who’s own face looked less than impressed at the contents of our car.

“License?” she requested, any enthusiasm for the sanctuary of marriage long gone from the conveyor belt of drunken couples she’d witnessed.


“Oh, we haven’t got one…” I answered. “Courthouse’s around the corner, it’s open 24 hours, it’s 70 bucks and will take 20 minutes, go get that, then come back here and you can choose which package you want” she relayed with a bored voice, clicking an invisible button to open the gates for us to leave.

“Oh damn! We don’t really have time if we’re going to get to our motel before dark….we should probably leave it” I advised, some logic finally surfacing.

The seducing lights of Vegas faded in the wing mirrors as we headed deep into the Nevada desert. The roads were quiet with only the odd truck mysteriously pulling off the free-way onto dirt tracks that led to a single run down building viewable from the main road. “They’re brothels” Alaska explained “it’s legal in this part of Nevada”.


“Ohh look! They sell hot sauce!” Blonde announced, pointing at a washed out billboard whilst pulling into a neon green painted gas station. Large letters attached to the building read ‘Area 51 Alien Centre’.

“Are we in Area 51?” I asked excitedly, “close to it I think, it’s not exactly listed on the map” Geo replied. “I’m going to see what hot sauce they have” Blonde remarked, heading into the station.

The shelves were lined with alien themed tourist tat, I was in my element! “Oooohhh I could get an alien hat! And an inflatable alien! Everyone needs an inflatable alien! Do you think they’ll tell me how to get to the actual Area 51 site! We might see a real alien!! How cool would that be!” I blabbered whilst roaming the shelves, “you don’t need an inflatable alien, put it down. PUT IT DOWN!” Alaska wrestled E.T from my clutches, rolling his eyes as I handed him some bug eyed sunglasses to wear.


“The hot sauce is next door?” I found Blonde at the till speaking to the cashier who didn’t appear terribly amused as I emptied my arms of the Area 51 ‘keep out’ sign, iron on Alien patch and neon yellow alien face socks onto the counter. The woman was probably only a few years older than me but she wore a face of twice that, she looked tired of life, like someone who’d seen it all and had long since given up on any expectations from people.

“Well yeah, they have hot sauce, but…you know it’s a brothel?!” the woman explained to Blonde whilst readjusting her cleavage. “Yeah, that’s fine, I just really love hot sauce” Blonde bubbled back. The woman’s eyes flitted between me and Blonde “you know what a brothel is?!”.

Blonde giggled “yeah, but I just want hot sauce” she laughed again, I was beginning to feel uncomfortable something about the encounter seemed rude, I worried the cashier would think Blonde was playing dumb on purpose, misunderstanding her naivety and think she was taking the piss at the cashiers expense. “I’m going to go next door” Blonde sauntered off. The woman watched her go, wearing a somewhat bewildered expression as the door slammed shut at Blonde’s departure “She knows what a brothel is doesn’t she?”.

“Umm yeah, sorry, sorry about that. She really likes hot sauce and so errr yeah, sorry. Can I please just have these please, thanks, sorry. Thanks, thank you” I bothered in a typical British way, feeling as though I ought to be apologising for everything that had caused the woman to reside in this strange place, living her life alternating between her shifts next door and selling alien junk to tourists.

hot sauce.jpg

Alaska was lying down in the back seat of the car, his feet the only part visible sticking out of the door as the radio played loudly. “Where’s the others?” I asked kicking a foot once I’d reached the vehicle. “They’ve gone in there” Alaska sat up, nodding in the direction of the brothel. “Oh god! She took Geo in too!” I smiled, a little alarmed. “This has been a big day for him! Getting spanked by a host of women, including a midget lady and now he’s in a brothel. In Area 51! An alien themed brothel at that!” I remarked, flinging my bag of merchandise onto the passenger seat.

I debated going in to fetch them, a little concerned they were being forced to part with all their money for a type of hot sauce they hadn’t been expecting. Alaska appeared at my side before I had a chance to move “let’s dance” he reached for my hand, motioning me into a twirl.


We swayed under the ‘Aliens welcome sign’ in the empty car park, the sky a patchwork of pinks whilst we both fought to lead. “You ready to go?” Blonde’s voice interrupted, announcing their return.

“How was the brothel?” I enquired. “Bit weird, we asked for hot sauce, so she went and got some chips for us to try it with, we just sat in the foyer alone waiting” Blonde answered as I pulled back onto the free-way. “She told us she’d put a glove on first before touching the chips” Geo added commentary from the back seat, Alaska and I grimaced at the understanding. “The hot sauce wasn’t hot enough but they kept asking if we wanted to try anything else” Blonde finished. I laughed “so brothels aren’t the place to go for decent hot sauce then? Good to know”. I watched the road ahead, half expecting a UFO to fall out of the sky and a little disappointed when one didn’t.


Vegas and the Monsters within us

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win” – Stephen King

Disney rarely explains how the villain became so, well, so villainy! The tale is always told from the perspective of the innocent, good-natured teen, who sweeps us up in their catching, show stopping tune, complete with adorable woodland creatures and general good-natured innocence. Not once have I seen a Disney princess throw a temper tantrum because they were feeling a bit hormonal that day or their boss was being a bit of a dick! But, like most little girls who grew up on the sugary syrup of ‘far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells and a prince in disguise‘ I thoroughly believed, that I was the heroine of my story. Unbeknown to me, somewhere along the path, I’d transformed into the villain.

Unaware of my slow decent to the dark side, I sunk lower in my seat, the weather beaten recliner letting out a groan in protest to the shift of weight, as I drank in the setting sun greedily. “It’s so nice here” I exhaled peacefully, lifting my feet onto the stone ledge in front. “It really is!” Blonde responded, her head tilted back to capture the remains of the day. We sat in silence together, both content on watching the evenings light bounce off the canyons walls opposite, the burnt amber filtering down to charcoal in the ravines gaping mouth; a smile forever frozen in an eternal yawn.

grand canyon lodge

Unusually, it had been a relatively drama free day as we twisted our way around the Grand Canyon national park, singing along to the radio as we drifted from one view point to the next. Blonde and I had soundtracked the drive in perfect vocal harmony, producing an acoustic somewhat similar to how alley cats might sound late at night. Alaska had grown tired of the beautiful harmonies, disturbing the music with a scream for quiet. Blonde and I, ever fearful of the next bump in the road that might break the peace, fought for the preservation of the moment, rebutting Alaska at always ruining the happiness. He sliced the air, turning the words back on me “that’s you’re role!” leaving my skin raw at the cut. We clambered out the car bickering, and then posed for pictures like the best of friends.

All was forgotten once the road led us to the lodge, the stone and timber frame retained all of it’s original 1920’s charm, providing an oasis for our storms. Whilst Blonde and I watched the red rocks bath in a purple rinse as the night’s sky blotted to ink. “Here, take one of these before I drop em!” Alaska announced his return from the bar, leaning down to pass me a crystal cut glass filled with swirling amber. “Yes! A cherry!” Blonde leant forward, snatching her reward from one of the remaining glasses Alaska was placing on the wall. “Can I have yours too?” she added, leaning toward my drink. “No you can not!” I mocked seriousness, jokingly appalled at her suggestion. “I’ve got pizza” Geo beamed, appearing behind Alaska.

Just for a moment, as the Old Fashioned’s warmed our stomachs and the days heat left the air, we stilled in quiet contentment, each lost in their thoughts. With the stars winking into life across the cosmos above, my thoughts, as always, drifted to my mother. ‘I’m doing ok aren’t I? I’ve got this whole adult thing down right? I’m good now?’ I asked silently, hoping for a whisper on the wind and hearing none.

relaxing at the edge

Had it not been for the mosquitoes who sniffed me out as soon as the sun blinked it’s final goodnight over the cusp of the horizon, I’d have stayed there all night! Reluctantly we left the historic beauty of the old lodge in search of more affordable accommodation that didn’t require booking two years in advance. Blonde offered to drive, negotiating half of her cocktail in exchange for my cherry.

The dark roads twisted downwards with no sign of life outside of our car. I sat hunched in the passenger seat, the knot that had started as a twinge in one shoulder had worked it’s way across my back, knitting a crochet blanket of pain that ached in spasms no amount of whisky could ease. Unable to coach out the hitch myself, Alaska’s warm hands reached over from the back seat to the rescue. “Your shoulders are fucked!” he announced as I twisted in discomfort at his accusing thumbs. “Ohhh, I want a massage” Blonde moaned from the drivers seat. “Ouchhhhhh! It’s not pleasurable!” I declared letting out a groan of pain “no, don’t stop! I can’t sit up straight!” I added as Alaska tried to pull his arms away. As if on cue, Geo’s hands appeared on Blonde’s shoulders.

The grand canyon

“We’re on Route 66 again” I nodded at the sign overhead the next day “I kind of get why they call it the mother road, you keep coming back to it!”. We’d spent most of the morning visiting more view points of the Grand Canyon, taking in the sights from every angle. With only a few hours left driving for the day, I switched in for the graveyard shift.

“SHIT!!” I yelled alarmed, startling the rest of the cars inhabitants who were close to sleep. “The petrol light is on! I don’t know how long it’s been on!” I panicked, aware the gas stations on this stretch of road were few and far between. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, in fact it seemed whenever Blonde and I switched seats, she’d fail to alert me to the fact the gas was low and I’d fail to check. After nearly three months together I impulsively wanted to scream she’d put me in this position on purpose, thankfully logic won out on this occasion but the pull of the dark cloak tightened around my neck regardless.

“How far to a gas station?” Alaska asked leaning forward to look at the gage. “I don’t know! How would I know! The light could have been on for the last half an hour!” I despaired, convinced we were going to have to free-wheel it to the hard shoulder and walk 50 miles to a station, probably getting picked up by chainsaw murders and turned into wax figure attractions on the side of the road.

“Sugar! According to your phone, the next gas station is 72 miles this way and 40 back the way we came, but it looks like we can’t turn around for another 30 miles any way” Blonde instructed staring at the screen. “Ummm how many miles does a car run on empty for?” I enquired. “About 20 or 30” Geo answered.

Route 66

“Right, well we’ve got 72 miles! We’re not going to make 72 miles!” I repeated. “Just turn off everything electric” Alaska stated. “How will that help? That’s the battery, not the gas!” I was pretty sure I knew at least that much about cars. “The gas charges up the battery though” Geo explained.

As the day grew old and the light faded, so did our hopes. We drove in silence, with no headlights, sweat bubbling and breaking across our brows as we all missed the air conditioner. “Don’t!” Alaska snapped as I lowered my window for some much needed air, the stench from the boys unwashed t-shirts poisoning the environment more than necessary. “It’ll slow the car down” he added as I reluctantly buzzed the window back up. With knuckles white on the steering wheel, my shoulders screaming from the tension and sweat pouring down my neck, I free-wheeled when possible, all of us leaning forward to help the cars momentum down hills, finally, on some miracle, our puttering little car huffed his way, 72 miles later into the gas station.

“That ones cheaper” Blonde insisted cheerfully, pointing to another gas station across the road as I pulled up at the pump, the car giving one final breath, all it’s energy exhausted on the last turn of its wheel. Hanging off the steering wheel, relief and pain washing down my back in equal measures as sweat dripped from my chin, I slowly turned my head “I. Am.Going. To. This.One!” I quipped. “But this will cost us more” she chimed. I let out a sigh “Do. Not. Give. A. Fuck!” I breathed heavily at each work “I don’t think the car will even make it across the road!” I unbuckled my seat belt, too tired to fight. Alaska appeared as I pumped the gas, his hands working at my shoulders”yeah, I’m going to start calling you Quasimodo”.

the hunchback

“My hair’s going to burn” Blonde squinted at the sun, a hand placed on her head as we stepped out of the car at the Hover Dam the next day. “Here, you can wear my hat” Geo rode in to the rescue, passing the hat from his head, Alaska shot me a look with a raised eyebrow, I passed a quizzical one back. “Oh, I left me sunglasses in the car” Blonde realised, already half way up the climb to the viewing platform. “Here” Geo lifted his own from his face, once again offered with a smile. Alaska pulled my arm to hang back as the others moved ahead “She’s taking advantage of him!”. I stared at him, my head tilted “I know, I’m not sure she realises though” I offered, frowning at the pair in front.

“It’s not on, he’s so puppy dog in love with her and she’s just taking when she’s not even interested!” Alaska complained, concern caught in the crumple of his forehead. “Have you said anything to him?” I enquired, sweat starting to roll as the Nevada heat pounded down on our stair climb. “No! He wouldn’t listen any way!” Alaska snapped, picking up pace and racing ahead of me, clearly done with the conversation.

like someone

The wind whipped the heat away at the top of the dam, resulting in goose pimpled skin which the sun continued to burn. The others paused for pictures but sensing an opportunity for both exercise and solitude, I set out on a one woman competition to reach the other side of the dam before anyone else. Hair torn free from my ponytail, danced around my face as the ghost of my mother kept pace with my march. How I longed to speak to her, tell her of the adventures, the frustrations. She’d be so proud of how mature I was being. My mind flitted back to Geo and Blonde, yeah, I was way more mature than everyone else! Alaska was right, Geo held his arms open and Blonde took whatever she wanted, never giving anything back. It annoyed me, and that in turn, the fact that I cared annoyed me. My mother always gave the best advice, but then, she also knew when to hold her tongue…something I hadn’t quite mastered.

come on

I don’t like seeing people taken advantage of. We’d all had those crushes in high school where you’d do anything to make the person happy, helplessly falling into some shitty friend role, grateful for any attention lavished your way. And worse, when you sit on the other side of that fence, mildly aware that your friend likes you but you’ve no intention of ever acting on it. Still, it’s nice to know there is always someone to turn to if you need a pick me up or help moving house or heavy boxes to lift. I lent across the edge of the rail trying to comprehend the curving drop beneath me, a lifetime of relationships playing on loop in my mind. Blonde and Geo were dots in the distance, Alaska lots in the haze of the summer beyond. ‘How is this all new to you?!‘ I asked staring in their direction “what did you do in high school! I’m sooooooo much more mature than you guys!‘ I told myself ostentatiously.

A girl would learn

“I thought you weren’t interested in Geo?” I asked Blonde just as soon as we were alone later that day. “I’m not, we’re just friends” she fired back quickly. “Hmmm” I responded, my eyes on the path in front. “What?!” she turned to look at my face, intuitively picking up something in my voice. “Does he know that, though?” I replied. “Yeah….”Blonde started. “Ok, well just be careful, you know, don’t be ‘that girl‘ is all” I warned.

“What girl? I don’t understand?” Blonde looked confused. “It’s obvious he likes you, just don’t lead him on” I tried to advise. “I’m not leading him on, I’m not doing anything” she defended, annoyance creeping in. “Well…he gives you shoulder massages, hugs, you wear his hat, sunglasses…” I listed. “But I don’t ask for that stuff, he just gives it to me” Blonde adjusted said sunglasses on her nose.


“Well yeah, you might not directly ask but you hint, knowing full well he’ll give them to you” I tried. “Alaska gives you shoulder massages and hugs too!” she had me there, I wasn’t quite sure how to explain that Alaska and I were in a relationship, not a relationship I fully understood but certainly not one I wanted to try and explain to her.

I sounded like a hypocrite ‘well you see, Alaska and I are sleeping together and are kind of boyfriend and girlfriend even though he only apparently likes my personality and finds me mildly physically repulsive which hurts my feelings and makes me feel pretty insecure but maybe he’s right and I am hideous? I’m not sure I want a relationship with him at all but I’m kind of in it now and it’s not like anyone else wants to fall in love with me….so you see, it’s entirely different than Geo wanting be your boyfriend and you pretending not to notice!‘ I answered internally before deciding that wouldn’t do.

oh really

“Errr it’s different with Alaska and me, we both know how it is, we’re just…good mates” I tried and failed. “I’m sure Alaska fancies you though, and you accept the shoulder massages, I don’t see how it’s different” Blonde answered logically. “Umm, yeah. I’m just saying don’t be ‘that girl’, I think you should just be clear with him if you’re not interested, just don’t leads him on. It’s not a nice place to be for either person” my point had got lost in the confusion of Alaska, I should have just come out and been honest with her, but that would have meant being honest with myself and nobody wants to do that!

We pulled into Vegas late afternoon, each of our faces pressed up against the windows as the famous strip loomed in front. We had managed to secure accommodation with a professional 23 year old poker player from the East coast. “Shall we go and walk the strip tonight, just to get a feel for the place? We’ve got a couple more days for big nights out”. It was decided.


Blonde and I marched ahead, leaving the boys to chat. “I sort of wish we were here without the guys now” Blonde announced as we strode into the crowd “I want to go out, just us and get chatted up and meet people” Blonde whispered even though the boys were too far back with the host to hear. “Yeah, I know what you mean, it would be nice to let our hair down and see who we meet, I mean, we are in Vegas after all!” I agreed.

Our comradely didn’t last long. As soon as we got back to the hosts house, Blonde decided she and Geo would share the very comfortable looking double bed, leaving Alaska and I to an airbed on the floor. “Ugghhhhhh!!!!” I erupted as soon as the bedroom door closed. “Why does this always happen! Why does SHE get the bed. EVERY TIME! It’s so unfair! I’m the one who never gets to sleep because she’s always getting up or banging around. I just want a good nights sleep! Just for once!” I moaned to Alaska.

wide awake.jpg

“Doesn’t matter, at least we’re not all sharing a room for a night!” Alaska tried to sooth, arms out in an approach to hug me. I was too riled up to be appeased “No!” I battered his arms away, ducking out of reach to the other side of the bed “She’s so selfish!”. “Well don’t take it out on me!” he snapped, picking up a pillow and throwing it at me aggressively. “Hey!” I yelled at his gesture, slamming the pillow to the ground in response. We descended into whispered bickering, my frustration relocated to his lack of support for my cause, his annoyance at me turning on him. With backs turned, his breathing quickly fell into a low rhythm as sleep descended.Why do boys always find it so easy to fall asleep after a fight?!

I laid there, staring at the dull glow of a street light creeping in from the edge of the blind. ‘Why can’t he and I get on?! Is it me? It must be me! Other people don’t have these fights! I don’t even know how I cause them. I used to be so happy, I mean sure, I’d get a bit moody time to time but I had whole relationships that didn’t have one raised voice. And now I can’t stop snapping! We’re suppose to be in the rose tinted glasses, can’t keep our hand off each other stage but I’m not sure I even like him half the time. Ugghhhhhh it’s me! I’m awful! I’m an awful person.  I create these fights all the time, I don’t even know how I’m doing it!” I rolled over and watched his chest rise and fall. With an arm resting on my forehead I sighed and stared at the ceiling.

always with you

‘I’m unloveable. That’s it! I’m unloveable! Everything ever loveable about me died with my mother. That’s why Bridezilla deleted our friendship just after mums death. And why my ex wouldn’t sit in the front row with me at the funeral. And why all those boys since disappeared after a few dates. People have just been putting up with me ever since because they’re good people and feel sorry for me, not because they like me. I’m horrible. I’m making everyone on this trip have an awful time. It’s because I’m fat and ugly and mean. I’m going to end up alone. With cats. I don’t even like cats but I’m going to be 50 and really super fat and surrounded by 10,000 cats and I’ll have to invite door to door sales people into my house just so I have someone other than Mr Whiskerface to talk to! And all because I’m this horrible, moody shithead who no one is ever going to love again!’  and so those dark thoughts found me, sneaking in during the twilight hours, twisting in my mind. Tears slipped silently out of scrunched eyes as I rolled over and clung to Alaska’s sleeping body, unfulfilled comfort as he lifted heavy limbs to embrace me.

don't look back

We sneaked into one of the hotel pools the next day. Roman statues stood on pillars in the centre of the tiled pool. Models in bikini’s stretched golden limbs across beach-beds and screams of rich babies squawked from the shallows. “I’m going for a walk!” Geo cut bluntly, disappearing from view behind the marble statues.

“What’s up with him?” I asked, my eyes following Geo’s retreat. “He says he’s flying back to his Grandparents tomorrow morning” Blonde replied glumly. “Why?!” I turned to Blonde, her expression lost behind sunglasses “I told him I just wanted to be friends”. I paused, guilty from the conversation I’d initiated “But he already knows that, you told him so” I turned to see Alaska climb into the water, escaping. “He won’t go, he’s just being dramatic” I dismissed hopefully. “He booked a flight earlier…” Blonde added to my surprise.


“But why? You told him ages ago you just wanted to be friends” I was impressed she’d finally been clear with him but hadn’t anticipated the consequences. “Yeah…but I think he thought there was still a chance. It was so awkward this morning…anyway, he leaves tomorrow. First thing, said he’s tired of the road-trip” Blonde explained, an edge to her voice. I liked having Geo around, he was smart and unassuming, bringing some much needed balance to the fiery personalities of the rest of us. Despite the constant drama, we’d become a little family – a dysfunctional one at best but the only family I felt I had.  Alaska reappeared, flopping down on the bed next to me, shaking his wet hair across our legs “Oiiii” I yelled as the cold water dripped “don’t!” he only laughed, “you should get in the water, it’s really nice” he smiled.


I clambered back onto the bed, self-consciously pulling on a t-shirt, quickly trying to hide my ever growing body. Blonde turned her head at my return “I just feel so bad…” she began. I sighed, settling down next to her. I’d been supportive, I’d listened, but she’d been saying the same thing for hours and my patience was wearing thin. “It’s so hard when someone likes you and you don’t feel the same way…”she frowned at the pool. I stayed silent. “He just likes me sooo much, I feel sooo bad…”. Alaska rolled his eyes at me from the edge of the pool and flipped backwards into the water.

I was starting to think Blonde was enjoying this “do you think he’ll be ok? He really likes me and..” I couldn’t take any more, interrupting with “well you can’t blame him for being annoyed” the words slipped from my mouth before I could catch them. “What do you mean!” Blonde fired. “Well if you weren’t interested, why did you keep messaging him and asking him to come on the trip? When he finally agreed to come, you spent the whole time hugging him, wearing his stuff and getting back massages! You’ve never actually been clear with him until today, you have kind of led him on so it’s no wonder he’s upset” I spoke sharply.

“No I haven’t! I’m not!” Blonde snapped, hurt by the bluntness of my words “I wanted him to come because we’re friends. It’s the same as you and Alaska! You knew Alaska had feelings for you and you still encouraged him to come. And he gives you shoulder massages and stuff” she had a point and once again I couldn’t explain why it was different.

you're annoying me

The mood hadn’t improved by the evening, Geo retreated for an early night, Alaska took the host out to dinner, I caught up on messages and Blonde popped out to the store.
“What time is it?” I asked Alaska at his return. “Nearly midnight” came the response, surprised to see me still awake. “What! I thought it was about 8! I’ve been waiting for Blonde to get back, she went to the store about four hours ago! I was going to go pick some stuff up myself! What the hell!” the truth was I’d wanted some time to myself that didn’t hold any risk of being disturbed by the other three. An opportunity to cry, or scream or laugh like a crazy person in the safety of the bubble the car provided. I was feeling trapped and needed an escape. I wanted to wander the aisle of the supermarket alone, stare at all the foreign American foods, advertised by cartoon characters long since banned on packaging in England. I wanted some freedom, but Blonde hadn’t returned.

“Where is she!” I snapped, my blood spiking – it boiled so quickly those days, all the irritations eating away like fire ants under my skin. “Dunno” Alaska shook his shoulders non-pulsed. “No, seriously, she went out hours ago. What if she’s in a supermarket car-park on the phone or something. It’s Vegas and we’re out on the edges, it’s dangerous! She could be getting attacked! She could be being raped and murdered in a Walmart carpark right this second!” my concern overrode my frustration as I reached for my phone and typed out a message ‘Where are you??’.

Her reply beeped through a moment later ‘Just walking around the strip, back soon’.

vegas driving

I dropped the phone on the bed and turned to Alaska “WHAT THE ROYAL FUCK! Oh my god! I’m going to fucking kill her! She said she was popping to the store. I’ve been sitting here all night and she’s just taken the car for her own agenda again! How many times! No seriously, how many times have we had this argument about her taking the car and not telling anyone! Fuck, I’m so sick of her! Agghhhhhhhhhh” I was out of words, three months worth of bile biting at the back of my throat, ready to erupt like a volcano.

“Calm down, she’s a dick, you know this. Why do you let her get to you so much. So she’s a selfish cow, if she gets murdered in a car park it’s not your problem” Alaska smiled, placing his hands on my shoulders. “Not funny!” I stared at him, slumping down on the air mattress, pushing two fingers either side of my temples “AGGGHHHHHHHHHH! This is such hard work! I feel like I’m responsible for her, like I have to be her mother or some sort of social guide, it’s exhausting! I’m so fed up with this whole thing!” a rush of emotions gathered at the back of my eyes as I fought the urge to burst into tears, swallowing the feelings past the lump in my throat.

fucking kidding me

Alaska dragged his hand over his mouth “you know why she’s gone to the strip don’t you?” he asked, raising a knowing eyebrow. I stared at him for a second “because she was hoping to get attention from guys?” I asked, already knowing the answer. He smile showed his agreement “with Geo leaving tomorrow she wants validation, she’s such an attention seeker!” he offered, I wasn’t sure that was entirely fair, I’d probably have behaved the same if Alaska decided to up and leave the next day, she certainly hadn’t been getting any support from me all day but hey, if I could survive on my own, why couldn’t she! “You know what, she’s been a nightmare all day! I’m not having this” a flash of anger propelled me into momentum as I reached for my phone.

“Seriously, this is not on! We’ve had this exact fight before about you taking the car! You said you were heading out to grab a few things, you’ve been gone hours! It’s Vegas, it’s not safe for a girl to be out on her own like that. It’s not fair for you to take the car for that long. You are so incredibly selfish! You have to learn to communicate! I’m so fed up with you acting so stupidly! You can’t just put your priority above everyone else’s and presume things all the time. There are other people on this roadtrip! You’re fucking out of order!” I bashed out the message and hit send, reading it back to Alaska for his thoughts “am I being unfair?” I asked, “no, you’re just being honest, it’s good, you never say what you think, it’s good you’re finally speaking truthfully” he encouraged, feeding my flames.

burn with me

Her reply came through quickly “I thought that we weren’t going out tonight. I can come back and get you. It’s unfair that you yell like this Bec. I was trying to leave you to do your thing. I just got the impression that you didn’t want to go out. I’ll head back now”. It wouldn’t have mattered what she’d said, I was on fire and wanted the world to burn with me.

“It’s not unfair that I yell. It’s a text message, there are no raised voices! Read your first message, you didn’t communicate anything to me other than you were going to the store to grab a few things! Look at your behaviour! Stay out on the strip, I’m not dealing with you when you come back. Once again you’ve fucked up by acting selfish, only thinking of yourself and not communicating anything. You act incredibly stupid at times and then expect everyone else to look after you. Sort your shit out, I’ve had enough of you acting like this. You didn’t tell me, you didn’t tell anyone that you were going to the strip, you just went off and did what you want to do. I was worried about you because Vegas isn’t that safe. But as it turns out you just didn’t think as usual and did what you wanted to do without ever considering anyone else”.  “You’re still not being fully honest, you’re holding back, say what you really think!” Alaska encouraged after I read my reply.

can't take it.gif

Actually I went to Walmart initially to try and find some Jurassic Park Lego for Geo to cheer him up. I couldn’t find it then went to another one and it wasn’t there. I was just dealing with shit and wanted a walk. So I went along the strip where there are heaps of people. I figured that was a bit safer than a dark street. It’s been a rough day and I had no one to talk to about it so I wanted a walk. And at the same time you could have come into my room and told me you were sending messages, I just went by what Alaska told me. Sorry you were concerned. You just get so annoyed when I try to talk to you. Every time. So I tried to leave you alone and deal with this. Alaska said we would go out tomorrow so I thought I was doing the right thing. Apparently not”. In retrospect Blonde was being entirely fair but in the moment all I saw was bait, losing myself in the energy of aggression.

“You got yourself into the situation with Geo and then spent the day asking the same stupid questions ‘why do I feel so bad’ ‘how long will I feel like this’ ‘does my face look bad’ and crying about it like a child! You made your bed, lie in it, take responsibility and stop behaving like a brat! Nobody wanted to deal with that today, it’s always poor Blonde and having to talk you through things. If you wanted to talk you could have come and talk about it, I’m not going to keep asking, you’re upset every other day about something or other!
The point still stands, you said you were going to grab a few things but decided to take the car for the whole evening, go to the strip and not communicate anything to anyone. Once again you behaved selfishly, didn’t think anything through and put your prerogative above everyone else’s” I was losing steam but determined to make my point stick at any cost.

the dark side.png

You know that’s unfair to say” the phone glowed.

“Go back and read the messages. You fucked up. Again” I snarled.

“I don’t mention how often you’re upset. It just happened this came up. I can’t help that I was upset. Read what you said. Why do you think I don’t want to talk about it. Because you throw it back in my face. And that’s not fair. That’s not what friends do.”  neither of us wanted to back down, I could feel the anger coming through Blonde’s messages, adding kindling to mine.

“Really, want to go into how friends behave? Look in the mirror! You are so, so selfish. Id’ rather you didn’t talk to me about it, I have never thrown anything in your face until this conversation, instead everyday I’m listening to your stuff and helping you with it. It’s draining and completely one sided. Yes I vent about Alaska occasionally but I never put my problems on to you or ask for your help. The point is, you put yourself above everyone else again tonight, you messed up and once again refuse to take any responsibility for it. We went through all this at Geo’s grandparents house and yet you didn’t take any of it in”  I spun back, Alaska checking my words were fair and just and not telling me the truth.

i felt nothing.gif

I heard the car pull in to the driveway a short while later, I rolled over on the mattress trying to shut the entire world out whilst I fed on the anger I’d spent two years brewing. Alaska, despite agreeing and dictating parts of the messages, slipped out the room to sit on the couch with the host whilst Blonde read out the messages for agreement on how cruel I was.

It was only later, much, much later when the trip was long gone did I look back at the messages. In the cold light of day, when the embers of anger had long burnt out did I realise just how nasty I’d become. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you discover you’re not the hero any more. It turns out, I wasn’t all that mature either. Worst of all, I wasn’t so sure my mother would have been proud of who I’d become, and this was only the start of things…

i kind of hate me

Monuments and condoms

“BECAUSE I’M BLEEDING FROM THE VAGINA!!!!” I yelled from the end of my tether, silently wondering where exactly I left my dignity.
With its copper ground and cumbersome pillars, Monument Valley was a world dedicated to Cowboys and Indians. A landscaped captured on the silver-screen that played across my childhood. Whilst my mother repainted the hallway walls and my father read the newspaper; I lost many a rain-drenched Sunday afternoon to the fire of guns and arrows respectively, all tangled up with racing horses and hell-bent bikers disappearing into dust clouds on lonely roads. The world in that box, so far removed from the battered rock in the Irish Sea I’d called home, provided a delightful escapism, a hint of freedom and adventure.
Monument Valley
 That rocky image lay dormant for years, sleeping in forgotten memory. Quietly burning like an ember waiting to catch light again. And then mum got sick.
Gradually the red sands began to blaze, the clouds cleared and that single path called. Through the twisted roads of cancer, the image burnt brighter and brighter. I clung to the escapism through the cluttered responsibility that comes with tidying up after other people’s death, from daydreaming out of office windows and empty bank balances. As the emotions rained down and smashed into office windows, I stared on longingly from my desk. Over the year, when I’d held myself together so tightly that I cracked apart, I mentally built layer upon layer on those rocks of Monument Valley. Hair whipping in the wind of my daydream, Baba O’Riley blasting from the stereo in my head. Only then, as I drove towards the gates of the mountains blurring on the horizon, would I finally be free of it all.
Cowboy Monument Valley
Or at least that was the idea…
In reality, I’d combined Monument Valley with the road from Death Valley, two entirely different places. I wasn’t in a Cadillac or on a Harley Davidson or even a horse for that matter. I also happened to have three other people coming along for the ride, all of which were never going to quite appreciate how monumental, Monument Valley really was to me. However, worst of all, my life still wasn’t a heart warming film with a kick ass indie soundtrack! Plus, as we drove towards the valley of rocks, I really, really needed to pee!
monument valley view
“That was pretty cool” Geo declared as we left the reservation. “Hmmm” I responded, the rocks slipping from view in the rear mirror. “Didn’t you like it?” Alaska asked leaning forward to make his voice heard over the radio. “No. Yeah. I did. I just, dunno. It just wasn’t quite how I pictured it. It’s beautiful, just, well, I always thought they were part of the backdrop of America, that you kind of stumble across, not an actual reservation were you pay to enter and then drive around following each car like on a safari, stopping to take pictures of the rocks like you would an elephant!”really, I’d been expecting some big life changing moment, a realisation of something or shift in perspective. The only change of perspective we’d gained was checking the bottom of the car to make sure we hadn’t caused any damage as Blonde bumped us around the rocky track.
“Me and Geo thought we would camp tonight. So we can drop you guys off at a motel if you like and then pick you up in the morning” Blonde declared nonchalantly as we headed towards Lake Powell. ‘Why do you presume you’d get to have the car and drop us off, why can’t we drop you off! Also, there is only one tent so if you’re camping it means we have to get a motel, and it also means we have to pay twice as much than if we were all sharing!’ the thoughts flooded through, building on a bitterness that kept growing ‘ughhhh you’re so selfish! Why don’t you think of anyone but yourself!‘ I took a deep sigh ‘calm down, she’s not trying to annoy you on purpose, you’re being overly sensitive again‘ I swallowed the bitter pill back down, it landed on top of all the others as I silently wondered how long it would be until there was no room left.
“Ummm, no I don’t want to be without the car tonight. If you two are camping we can drop you off and then pick you up in the morning” I responded trying and failing to sound friendly. “What? No, I don’t want to be camping without having the car nearby, what if something happens!” Blonde replied alarmed. “If something happens you can call us and we’ll come and get you” I stared at the road, refusing to compromise. I felt the boys fall back deeper into their seats, an icy tension frosting the windows once again.
“But that doesn’t make sense, I don’t see why we can’t have the car…”Blonde started before I snapped an interruption “I am not being without the car tonight! I don’t care. If you want to camp fine! But I’m having the car!” I was fed up with her always taking it without saying anything in the evenings, making decisions that affected everyone else without any consideration, if it meant I had to act like a stubborn cow then fine, I hadn’t got to feel the wind in my hair or a life changing moment that morning but I could at least hold on to a tiny slither of freedom that the car represented should I suddenly need to create my own dust cloud in the distance!
road trip
“But you’re being unreasonable! You can’t just decide like that!” Blonde started again. “You just said the exact same thing! You decided! I don’t care, I’m not being without the car tonight!” even in my stubbornness I had to admit to myself it did make more sense for them to take it than Alaska and I but there was no was I was going to admit it. “The car is both of ours, you can’t just decide who takes it” Blonde tried. “Well, you have for the last two months! Presides, the car is in my name, on my credit card so actually, I can decide and I’m taking it tonight!” I declared once again, feeling rather uncomfortable on the rocky ground I’d placed my feet.
“Why don’t we camp as well?” Alaska interjected, I flashed him a warning look in the mirror. “We don’t have a tent!”.  “Well we could pick up a cheap one from a Walmart or something” he suggested. “You can camp if you want to but I’m not!” I responded, flashbacks of freezing to death in Alaska and hiking through the dark to find a loo in the middle of the night.
“The stars will be really clear tonight and we can camp near the water, it’ll be really good” Geo offered. “I’m not camping!” the truth was, lying beneath the stars on a warm evening followed by a morning swim as the mirrored lake reflected the sunrise was something I desperately wanted to do but it appeared I’d rather cut my nose to spite my face. The prospect of a night without Blonde waking me every time she went to the bathroom or sleep going uninterrupted from the removal of Geo’s snoring was too good an opportunity to pass up, presides, I couldn’t possibly admit they were right or let them win!
“Yeah! Let’s camp” Alaska joined in. I felt bullied “You do what you want, we don’t even know if we can find a tent to buy! Presides, I’ll get eaten to death my mosquitoes!” I moaned. “Well we’ll sleep in the car, it’ll be fun” Alaska added. “You can all sleep where you like, but I’m not!” I was getting angry, the pills in my stomach begin to rattle. “Well I don’t think it’s fair that you get to have the car, what if Geo and I need to get something or go somewhere” Blonde started up again.
“You won’t and you can call us if you do” I said as finally as I could. “But it’s not fairrrrr” she began as my knuckles turned white around the steering wheel. “We could all share the tent, it says two-man but I can sleep outside…” Geo was trying to be appease the situation but it was too late. “I AM NOT CAMPING!” I snapped “but why…” he stated before I cut in, spitting over my shoulder, trying not to pull the car along with me “BECAUSE I’M BLEEDING FROM THE VAGINAAAAAAA!!!!!” I yelled, only the tiniest spark of embarrassment burning and dying in my conscience.
What is it about periods that freaks boys out so much? The mere mention of blood and vagina in the same sentence and the boys were silenced. Blonde, having lost the battle also retreated back into her seat, silently fuming out the window.
I sat on the grass whilst Blonde, Geo and Alaska emptied the boot trying to locate the various sleeping bags and every possible item Blonde might need for an impending apocalypse or preparing for a months stay. The sun dyed the clouds pink and basked the world in gold, I rested my head on my arms, my knees pulled up close and tried to find some level of peace whilst the  voices of the others floated towards me.
Sunset at Ahlstrom Point, Arizona
“Do you think I can take Becky’s blanket” I could hear Blonde ask Alaska ‘No! And I’ve told you, it’s a scarf, not a blanket! It’s like 100 degrees anyway, you don’t need my blanket!‘ I muttered. “I wouldn’t” Alaska responded reading my mind. “I don’t understand why she’s being so difficult…” Blonde complained. “Don’t…” Alaska answered. “It’s not fair though, maybe you can talk to her? Why does she get to have the car tonight?” Blonde dug up. “Oh shut uppppp!” Alaska fired.
“Hey, don’t talk to me like that” Blonde really never knew when to back off. “Shut the fuck up! Don’t even start with me! You started this when you made demands…” Alaska was yelling now. “Hey, calm down! Don’t yell at her” Geo jumped in. I zoned out as the three of them screamed back and forth at each other, Alaska warning Geo to back down before turning back to Blonde who to her credit gave as good as she got.
The sun sunk lower, I probably should have pulled Alaska away but I stayed rooted to the sandy grass, feeling the warmth of the day subdue.
lake powell
It was dark by the time the boys had the tent up, Blonde walked back and forth carrying blankets and her luggage. With promises to answer the phone at any time should the bogeyman come out to get them, Alaska and I departed.
I quickly realised camping might not have been such a bad idea as we drove around for hours, stopping at every hotel and motel in the small town, finally finding the last bedroom available that came complete with a flooding roof and inch of water across the floor.
Whilst Alaska and I moaned about the frustrations of the day, Blonde was facing her own trials. At some point early on in the evening she discovered a pile of condoms in Geo’s bag, her initial surprise was quickly replaced by anger. “I can’t believe he thought I was going to sleep with him just like that!” she bequeathed to me the next day in whispers across bathroom stalls. Appalled by his audacity and presumption, she quickly closed the bag shut before he saw and kept her legs firmly crossed. “It was a really awkward” she whispered as soon as we were alone the next morning “we took the top cover off the tent so we were just under the netting and could see the stars”.
watching the stars
“Arrr that sounds romantic!” I remarked, a pang of jealousy at having missed out. “Yeah but, we were lying there and he turned his head to face me. I didn’t want him to go in for a kiss so I sort of kept talking. I was constantly blabbing and pointing at the stars and talking and talking without a break so he couldn’t lean in. But he just kept staring at me with this look on his face!” she stopped talking when I started to giggle.
“No, go on, sorry, it’s just, I’ve been there, I’ve done the exact same thing! Just waffled on about nonsense so they don’t have a chance to try and kiss you” I offered my experience in the hope it might make her feel better. “Right, ok” she dismissed “but I don’t think I like him like that. He’s a really nice guy but I don’t fancy him. And how dare he think I was going to sleep with him as soon as we were alone and camping!” she finished. “Oh yeah, beautiful back drop, amazing sky, all the other tents far from earshot, a tall blond Australian in the bed next to him! God, what was he thinking!” my sarcasm was lost on her. “Well I said night in the end and rolled over and pretended to go to sleep”.
camping under the stars
We headed north that afternoon, in search of another national park for the next day. Geo had awoken in a mood that next morning. We were staying with a group of college boys, Alaska had taken it in his stride, presuming I was too old to be of any interest to them. Geo, however looked much less comfortable as Blonde chatted over dinner with one of the locals.
The entrance queue for the park was long and slow, Geo, fed up with the lack of movement stepped out the car and proceeded to climb a tree, resting on the branches and pulling his hat low to cover his face. When we finally reached the car park (having first coached him back into the vehicles once the traffic started moving again) he marked off to the information centre. “What’s up with him today?” I glanced at Blonde. “Well, I think I know” she answered cryptically, I raised an eyebrow for more information.
“I sort of told him I wasn’t interested” she replied. “What do you mean sort of told him?” I enquired. “Well, I kind of made a point that I don’t want to date anyone on this trip and that I just want to have fun and go out and flirt with people in bars and that we’re really good as friends and that he’s really nice”. I looked at her a little bewildered “errrr, so you told him you don’t want to get with anyone but you want to go out and flirt. And then you said he’s a really nice guy? I think you’ve just confused him even more!” I smiled. “What? No, he knows it’s not like that” Blonde defended. “Well I think you might need to spell it out a little more clearly…” I pulled at visitors door handle to follow the boys inside.
man in tree
We walked the famous Narrows path in Zion national park, with only a few days drive
from Las Vegas, there was something about the daunting cliffs that rose either side of the river, our feet slipping off the wet rocks, their outlines lost in the current. It felt like we were sinking further into Dante’s Inferno as we crossed through the river of skulls.
“Here, can you stick this in your pocket” Alaska fished out a sticky looking wrapper from the water. “Ewww, I’m not putting that in my pocket, put it in your own!” I retorted back. “Why won’t you put it in yours! I’m trying to save the environment and you want to destroy it!” he argued. “What?! That’s not true, I just don’t want to put a dirty wrapper in my pocket, you picked it up, why do I have to carry it! Why are you making such a fuss!” I snapped back, confused as to why every outing was descending into bickering. “You’re so stuck up! It’s because you’re from a city, you don’t care about the environment, it’s shallow and vain!” he stated, stopping ahead of me whilst the river pooled around his legs.
the narrows
“What the hell! What are you talking about!” I growled back, his swipes denting my perception of myself ‘I’m not shallow! Or vain. Ok maybe a little vain but I’m not that bad! But just because I lived in London doesn’t mean I don’t care about the world‘ I debated internally. It was only later I realised the litter was another one of Alaska’s tests to see my standing on certain things, tests I always failed without ever knowing the question.
Rather than discuss whatever was really annoying him, we blew up at each other in the middle of the river. Following, Blonde and Geo, who had already turned back, I stomped through the water after them, trying to get far away from Alaska and as quickly as possible. He took his time, whilst Geo, Blonde and I sat at the path entrance. Blonde lost her patience in the wait, resulting in her own fight with him.
With Geo annoyed at Blonde for not responding to his feelings, Blonde annoyed at Alaska, Alaska annoyed at me, and finally me annoyed at everything; we were a ‘happy’ little group, as we headed off to the cinema that evening. ‘Why is it so hard to get on with people, what’s wrong with me?’ I mentally examined not for the first time that trip.
A couple of days later our journey found us once again on route 66, we’d snaked on and off it since Chicago, those double 6’s providing a hint of both familiarity and a sense that our trip was nearing its end.
“Tell them” a smile twitched at the corners of Blonde’s mouth “I mean, only if you want to of course” she added, glancing at Geo in the mirror. “Oohh come on, now you have to tell us!” I spun in my seat. “Yeah, come on” Alaska cheered on.
An embarrassed smile crept across Geo’s face “Ok, well…” he started. “He bought condoms…” Blonde interrupted excitedly, her initial annoyance at the discovery having clearly passed, “wait! Let him tell it!” I jumped in. Geo picked up the thread “well, yeah. So it was just before I flew out of Colorado to come meet you all in Texas. My uncle took me to the store, and I was trying to get them as quickly as possible whilst he was shopping” he paused for breath. “What was wrong with him seeing?” I asked.
“Well he was staying at my grandparents the same time I was, they’re quite religious and I wasn’t sure if he’d mention it to them. And it’s embarrassing having your family see you buy condoms!” he explained. “Good point! On with the story!” I responded.
“I kept looking to see if my uncle was coming, the person in front of me was taking ages. When I finally got to the checkout the cashier looks at me and goes, really loudly, ‘I’m so proud of you’ and then added ‘I wish my son had bought protection’ I didn’t know what to say, so just said ‘oh’ and she went on ‘now he’s knocked some girls up and he’s not father material. Well good for you! I’m so proud of you!‘ it was a very surreal moment, all I could think of was my uncle is going to appear any second!” Geo laughed. “Ha! That’s brilliant!!” I joined. “There’s more!” Blonde added.
“Well I was trying to hide the packet the entire ride home, I went straight to my room and thought I’d got away with it…” Geo answered. “And then his gran walked in!” Blonde bounced in, unable to contain herself. “And then my Gran came in holding this piece of paper ‘you left your receipt in the car‘ she said handing me the receipt, I couldn’t meet her eyes!”.
she knows

Should I stay or should I go?

Utah welcomed us from beyond the dashboard, it’s open vastness drawing a collective intake of breath from the audience within the car. Sponsored by the lengthy discussion held the night prior, the relief was almost tangible as we slipped from the grasp of the Colorado mountains that morning. The humidity we’d felt trapped between the peaks of the Rockies, with its constant threats of torrential showers and tension filled closeness only reflected the suffocation that had been weighing down on us.

Leaving colorado

“Oh yes! Classic!” I exclaimed buoyantly, leaning across the car and spinning the radio up as we fell into the chorus of the Lion King. I spun in my seat to laugh at the boys whilst Blonde steered the car up the twisted sandstone road towards Arches national park. “It means no worries, for the rest of your days……” whilst our voices sailed, I stared out the window, lost in the contrast of rust coloured sand and turquoise sky, my mind melting back to the night before…
“Do I have toooooo?” my feet dragged along the carpet, trailing Alaska. “I’m tired, can’t we talk about it in the morninggggg” I begged. “But, but….”. “No” he interrupted sternly, flashing a smile over his shoulder to soften the blow “you’ve been putting it off for days already, just say how you feel” he advised. “But I don’t know how I feellllll” I came to a stop, trying to delay the confrontation for as long as I could. Alaska turned “sure you do, if you want to end the trip with them and just you and me continue,that’s ok. I think it’s what would be best for you…”. “Hmmm…” I pondered, hovering at the entrance to the sitting room where Blonde and Geo were waiting.
rock climbing
“Are you coming?” Alaska pulled me back to the present as we came to a stop at the national park “come on!” he called racing after Geo who was already half way up a rock formation.
“I’m not sure that’s safe” Blonde appeared next to me. “If they kill themselves you’re calling their mothers ok?” I joked. “That would kind be kind of awkward!” Blonde replied amused. “We could just leave their bodies here, someone would find them after awhile right? We don’t really have time to deal with them dying” I continued, slightly alarmed as Alaska’s hand slipped, his limbs not as long as Geo’s to reach the next hole.
“Can we dump their stuff out the car too?” Blonde smiled as Geo finally reached the top, shortly followed by Alaska “take a photo” he called, his voice almost stolen by the wind.
“Yeah, would be nice to get rid of all their stinky boy stuff, they’re worse than us for dumping it everywhere, we can barely see out the back window now!” I moaned whilst snapping the picture. “Shall we just leave them now?” Blonde added as we laid down on the rock waiting for the boys decent, the sun trying to stain our skin the same colour as the earth around us.
Climbing the sandstone
Alaska pushed open the door to the downstairs living room, revealing Blonde sitting cross-legged on the floor and Geo perched in a chair in the corner, their conversation silenced by our arrival. “Hey” Alaska cracked the air, settling himself on the floor and leaning back against a bookcase “did you guys want to talk about the rest of the trip then?”.
I took the last available seat, curling my legs under myself on the sofa, facing opposite Blonde. I could feel all the eyes on me. We tangoed in limbo for a short period until Blonde started “yeah, well, do you want to go first?” directing the question at me. ‘No not really’ I twisted uncomfortably.
“Well, I don’t know what to say, like what about? The fight in Santa Fe? The road-trip? What happens next? What?” I questioned, still trying to delay making any decisions. “Yeah, well, all of it!” Blonde prompted. I rolled my eyes ‘why do I have to do all the hard work‘ I internally digested before warning myself to play nice.
hard work
 “How far are we going?” Blonde called after Alaska, the four of us following a trail to one of the famous arches. “It’s just a bit further, nother ten mins or so” Alaska yelled back.
“How far are we going?” Blonde called after Alaska, the four of us following a trail to one of the famous arches. “It’s just a bit further, nother ten mins or so” Alaska yelled back.
“It’s starting to get dark and we’re up pretty high, I don’t want to be climbing over boulders in the dark” Blonde warned. “We’ll be fine” Geo dismissed, offering her his hand to step down onto the next ridge. Alaska ran down a sharp rock face, keen to keep the lead ahead of Geo. It was clear from the various structures we’d stopped at that Geo was the superior climber, Alaska, not used to coming in second place to his quieter friend was seizing the opportunity to lead the pack.
“Will you be careful!” I yelled, as my own feet slipped out from under me and I landed on my bum. Gravity making the safe decision to make the rest of the decent on my arse until my feet could reach firm ground again.
slipping down the revine
“I really think we should be heading back soon” Blonde stated again, her face turned to the inking sky. “Where’s he’s gone?” Geo scanned our surroundings, low bushes casting long shadows as large rocks circled in on us. The light was getting lost behind the pillars, I stared up at the smooth face we’d slid down on, beginning to think Blonde had been right about heading back sooner.
Alaska’s voice echoed around the enclosure, we followed it’s trail, finally finding him attempting to climb to the top of one of the arches. “I’ll go get him” I informed the others, trying to find a path in the sand and foliage to the double arch framing a window onto the sunset.
“We really should go soon” Blondes voice carried, a note of concern audible. “Yeah, come on guys” Geo added. “We’re fine, stop worrying” Alaska shouted back excited at his one-man adventure.
Having made it to the arch I found Alaska back on solid ground, out of view of the other two, he leant in to kiss me “we really should go” I pushed back. The shadows had grown in the escaping light for our return to the sloping rock, it worried me how easily disorientated we’d become in the brief minutes that had past whilst fetching Alaska. A coyote called in the distance as our Geo and Blonde’s voices guided us back to the them and the path.
I sank lower into the sofa, twisting a finger in my hand “ok well. You see. I mean. Well road-trips are hard” I glanced up, no one said anything, forcing me to continue. “And I think we’ve all done really well, it’s been two months and we’ve covered a lot of miles. And, and we’ve done really well haven’t we?” I paused, trying to find the words, how to explain all the things that had been frustrating me, the pressure and responsibility I’d felt, the grief that still hung like a weight from my neck and cut like knives when no one was watching.
I didn’t know how to explain it all, no one spoke. “Ok, Well. I’ve found it harder than I thought I would. You see, I guess it’s felt like I’ve had to organise everything…” I began. “That’s not true..” Blonde began, catching herself from saying anything further, worried I might explode. I twisted my finger tighter “I arranged the flights, planned the route, booked accommodation….” I listed. “I’ve booked accommodation too!” Blonde defended.
“Yes. The drug den in Chicago. That arse in St Louis. The serial killer a few days ago…” I was being unfair. “No, I’ve booked other ones too!”. “Ok yeah, you have booked some accommodation, but only after it was pointed out to you that I was doing everything! Unless I say anything, then it’s left to me to organise everything! I’ve even tried to hold back planning stuff, thinking one of you would realise we had nowhere to stay that night but none of you ever do, it can get to 5pm and the thought of where we will sleep hasn’t even crossed your minds…until I point it out! Then you all stare at me to come up with the solution” I stated, getting agitated.
waiting for the train
“No, that’s not true, we do plan stuff. It’s just… you’re better at it. Anyway, you like organising!” Blonded informed. I sighed “I do like organising, and I find it relatively easy to do so, but that shouldn’t mean it always gets put on me. It’s a lot of pressure and I don’t think any of you realise how much has to be done. It’s hard having to accommodate everyone’s plans” a sadness settled on my shoulders, I hadn’t realised this was how I felt until the words left my mouth.
“But we do your plan all the time” Blonde stated. “What? No we don’t, I’m always asking what everyone else wants to do and then adjusting the route or timings to fit. I really wanted to see Dolly Parton world but you and Alaska didn’t so we didn’t go and I didn’t say a thing!”.
scooby doo at night
 It was almost pitch black as we stumbled over rocks, guided only by our phone lights until the car park emerged behind a gap in two boulders. “I’m so tired” Blonde yawned, I crossed to the drivers seat. It was only a few more miles to the motel, my shoulders ached from the concentration of navigating the sharp turns out of the national park in the dark, the longing for sleep driving me on.
“The stars would be amazing here, let’s pull over!” one of the boys announced, “yeah, lets!!” Blonde added excitedly. The lights of a truck glared in my wing mirrors as it raced up behind us “can we pull over to see the stars” Blonde asked again “I know, I’m trying to find somewhere to stop!” I responded a little too sharply. “Ok but we need to pull over before we get to the town or we won’t be able to see anything” she added. “I know!” I gritted my teeth as the truck rushed past, the change in air pressure pulling the car whilst I struggled to keep a straight line in the dark.
driving at night
Geo busied himself with a cushion in the corner. Alaska’s thumb spun up and down on the screen of his phone. The conversation wasn’t going how I wanted it to, the last thing we needed was another fight, I tried to change tact. “Anyway, it’s not just the organising stuff. I feel like I’ve become a bit of an agony aunt, every conversation is either about your problems or about Alaska’s. It’s exhausting! I never get a moment alone!” I was talking at my feet again, afraid to raise my eyes and meet judgemental stares.
“We share beds, eat together, spend all day driving, go to tourist attractions together. I can’t even use the toilet or shower without one of you knocking on the door asking a question or wanting something!” I paused for breath and went on. “Even in the evenings, if I say I’m going for a walk or to the store, you insist on coming with me! Literally, I can’t remember the last time I was alone for more than five minutes!” it spilled out of me, hanging in the air.
“Well, why don’t you just say you want to go for a walk alone? I go for walks on my own” Blonde questioned. “Because every time I say, you start putting your trainers on!” I answered back. “Well then tell me you want to be on your own” she offered as if it were that easy. “How! How am I suppose to do that?! If I said, you’d think there was something wrong. If I’m quiet for more than a few minutes you all think I’m in a mood!” I raised my shoulders as my eyebrows knitted at the frustration.
Shit directions
“The stars are amazing! They’re so clear!” Alaska observed, his head tilted back. I stared at the spray painted ceiling above us, it was beautiful but couldn’t compare to the entire universe that had hung above the outback outside Alice Springs back in Oz. I knew this should have been a magical moment, the film version would have had us all perched on the bonnet of the car, a blanket wrapped around our shoulders as we watched meteors fall wishes to the ground.
Instead goose bumps pricked my skin as mosquitoes dived at my scent in the dark, tiredness etched the edges of my brain, making me question where I’d find the energy to get us back to the motel safely “umm can we go now” I asked, worrying I was ruining the moment for the others. “A few more minutes, Alaska spun in a circle, his mouth wide. “Do you know the constellation names?” Blonde asked Geo. “Some of them” he responded, pointing out what he knew.
star gazing
 “That’s the Big Dipper” he pointed up. “Which one?” I asked, “See that one there?” I followed his hand. “Oohh the plough?” I realised. “What?” Blonde asked. “The plough, see it looks like an upside down plough, that’s what it’s called in England” I explained.
“That’s the Big Dipper” he pointed up. “Which one?” I asked, “See that one there?” I followed his hand. “Oohh the plough?” I realised. “What?” Blonde asked. “The plough, see it looks like an upside down plough, that’s what it’s called in England” I explained.
“Doesn’t look like any tractor I’ve ever seen!” Alaska laughed. “No, like ploughs used in olden days!” I tried. “They still farm by hand in England, no wonder you’re not a super power anymore!” he joked. “No! Whatever! shut up! Can we go now!” I defended, swatting another mosquito on my leg. “I’m getting eaten alive here, I’m getting in the car!” I was beginning to get a little scared on the dark lane we’d parked in just off the highway, afraid any old nutcase could appear out of the dark, turning us into the next midwest horror story.
“Fine, we can go!” they moaned climbing into the car, a sequence of doors slamming shut. A rabbit darted across the road as I pulled the car away with the crunch of gravel under the tyres, a spark of light flashed across the sky in my wing mirror ‘please let us make this work‘ I silently wished.
Star wishing
“And that’s another thing! You always take the car!” I was on a roll. “Huh?” Blonde met my eyes confused. “You do! Like every day! Twice a day! You take it in the morning to go get your coffee. And then again at night, to coffee shops to call your mum, or to the supermarket. But you never even say, you just go! You don’t even ask if anyone else wants to go or would need to use the car, you just take it! I’d like to go for a drive to a supermarket some evenings but I never get a chance!” I spat, trying to hold on to some softness so not to sound too aggressive.
“I don’t need to use the car” Geo interrupted, coming to the defense of Blonde. I shot him a warning look, telling him to keep the hell out of it, a wave of guilt filling me as he clamped his mouth shut and looked away sheepishly.
“I don’t take the car that often…” Blonde started. “Yeah you do! All the time!” Alaska jumped in, coming to my defense.
“Oh. Well, I didn’t realise, I’ll try to make sure I let you all know in future and check no one else needs it from now on….if you still want to continue that is?” she lifted her head and looked through her lashes. I looked down, toying with a loose thread on my dress.
I awoke no more rested than when I’d gone to sleep in the motel room, between Geo’s snoring, Blonde’s trips to the bathroom and Alaska’s insistence of hugging me whilst he slept, I’d been battered against the shores of sleep never quite managing to dock. That morning the boys and I laid across the two double beds clicking through web pages on our computers passing the time. Blonde emerged from the bathroom, took one look at us, grabbed the car keys and was out the door before anyone could say a word. “Where’s she going?!” I spoke to the room. “Errr, don’t know. I got up early and got her a coffee already” Geo replied.
An hour later we were on our way to another national park “I went to the tourist information. You were all on your laptops” Blonde answered our demands to where she’d disappeared to. “Because we were waiting for you! We were ready to go!” I snarled. “Oh, I thought you were all busy and I didn’t want to wait around so went out” she replied. “We were waiting for you so we could leave! You took the car again without saying anything!” I was shaking my head in disbelief. “Well I…” she began.
“We literally had this conversation two days ago!! We said how annoying it is when you do that! Where you’re going, when you’ll be back. It’s not fair! We’re late leaving today because you decided to go for a drive! Ugghhh what was the point in even having that whole conversation if you’re just going to ignore everything we talked about!” I was furious, our peace treaty had lasted less than a day.
There was nowhere to look in the living room that didn’t have eyes, I still didn’t know if I wanted to continue to trip with everyone. Alaska had been increasing the pressure that he and I take off on some romantic cross-country adventure together, leaving the other two in the dust.
Part of me wanted to go alone, finish how I’d started when I first left for Australia but something deep inside knew that would be a mistake, the fear of being alone again gawing at my bones. I wanted to talk it out but it seemed such an inconsequential thing to be debating in the grand scheme of life’s problems. For me there was no home, job or family waiting back home for me, that car, that road, it was the only existence I had at the time, the others had somewhere to return to and I didn’t know what was going to happen next.
It was just a road-trip, just a decision to stay with the travel partners or choose a different exit, but for me, it was the only world I had. Sadness again crept upon me from the corners, the others had no idea how important or how hard it all felt, they were on holiday, I was trying to survive.
 running away from home
“You see, the thing is, I know you all think I’m just being a moody cow most of the time, and I hate that! I wish you could see the happy go-lucky person I usually am. Or sometimes am, or used to be I think. I swear I’m not this awful all the time! I don’t like coming across that way, or that you have this impression of me. It’s just…” I stopped.
“What?” Blonde pushed “you have to say everything or we won’t know”….
hole in the earth
“Shall we stop here to refill the water?” Blonde suggested as we entered Canyonlands national park. Whilst Alaska and Geo refilled, Blonde and I crossed the road to observe the view. A deep quarry dropped beneath us, ridges circling rings into the ground. We watched a car become a toy as it navigated the tight road down. “Oohh we should drive down there!” Alaska announced appearing at our side. Blonde and I shared a glance “shall we keep driving into the park?”. “Yeah, yeah let’s do that!”.
Separating ourselves from the tour groups gathering at the main look-out point we perched on the edge of the world and ate sandwiches. Rivers of canyons spread like veins for as far as the eye could see. We sat like eagles above it all, no sign of humanity’s footprint in existence, just an apocalypse of nature.
Each of us clambered down to get closer to the void, toying with death as a wind lifted the hair off our faces and made us feel alive. I stood as close as I dared to the edge, the copper  world so far beneath my feet. That was the moment, when your hairs stand on edge and every fibre feels electrified, like you’re lost between being so small and inconsequential and yet you’re standing on the shoulders of giants preparing to rule, it’s a place where nothing is impossible.
Had I been alone and not in fear of the coach parties or my friends hearing me, I might have screamed into the nothingness ‘CAN YOU HEAR ME! RAWWAAAWWWWWWWWWWW’ letting anything and everything out of me. For fear of being carted away by men in white coats I simply turned back to the others “terrific view, rather spiffing don’t you think”.
edge of the world
Unaware of the great outdoors waiting for me I tried to explain the emotions locked up in my head still in the living room. Blonde waited eagerly, the boys pretended not to be interested but I noticed how Alaska had placed down his phone and Geo was leaning forward, ears pricked.
“I don’t really know how to explain it, it’s, it’s the grief thing” I felt like a broken record, fully aware if you hadn’t experienced a loss that shook your world then, like I used to, you couldn’t possibly understand and presume the person should be over it by now.
No one spoke so I continued “you see, in the past, if I ever found something upsetting or wasn’t sure how to handle a situation I’d call my mum. Even if I just needed a sounding board, just to get the words out, you know? I thought that was how everyone handled their problems, talking about them with someone who was patient enough to listen and not judge? I didn’t know there were other ways, I never learnt how else people do it!” no one commented, I began to feel embarrassed, playing with that thread again.
screwed up
“I thought I’d got through the grief thing, when I left Australia I thought I was, well cured. I mean I’d done all those stages you read about, The anger, denial etc stuff. And I’d been depressed and the whole getting drunk and hooking up with surfer dude stage – which is totally a stage by the way!” I smiled, more to myself than my small audience.
“But I was pretty happy after New Zealand, I thought I was over it, and this trip would just be about having fun and being happy and well, being who I used to be again” I lump grew in my throat, ‘what if I never feel happy again or whole. What is no one ever loves me and I spend the rest of my days unloved and alone?’ the question floated into my mind as I spoke.
“Only this trip has been so hard. I don’t know how to communicate when I’m hurt or frustrated or irritated by something. And it always seems like silly, petty stuff, things not worth mentioning. So I don’t say anything. But everything builds up and then I sort of bubble over and you all think I’m being overly sensitive or difficult. And I get annoyed because you don’t understand. Then I feel horribly guilty, worried I’m ruining it for everyone which makes me sad, so I try to work-out how I’ve dealt with similar things in the past….and I called my mum. And I can’t do that anymore. And I don’t know what to do. Which all makes me sad and then I miss her. And I go through this cycle over and over again every time someone slams the car door or snaps back or gets annoyed if I roll my eyes. And I want to talk to my mum and ask what to do because I don’t know how to adult. And I’m scared. And I miss her” I was waffling. I stopped, worried if I said another word my eyes might spill over.
Sad face
I’d been talking to the floor, afraid if I met their eyes I might get scared and not finish my point, or worse, crumble and need their support! Slowly I lifted my eyes, Blonde and Alaska had their head cocked in sympathy, I hated it. I caught Geo in the corner of my eye, his face looked both surprised and uncomfortable with the honesty.
“So, errr, yeah. The road-trip then. Well, I guess I do want us all to continue together, just maybe we could all organise stuff, and say if we need the car and…yeah? We could go as far as Vegas and then reevaluate if we want to go any further? What do you think?” I offered cheerfully, trying to cover any vulnerability I’d shown.”Ummmm. Is there anything you wanted to say from your side of things?” I suggested to Blonde.
The four of us sat together, our feet dangling over the ravine, Alaska’s hand resting on my knee, Geo’s arm around Blonde’s shoulders, we’d agreed to stick it out but old wounds are easily opened…
End of the road

The tensions of road trips and smashing rocks


“….and that’s how we escaped the serial killer” I concluded to our new hosts, a young family of five. “Well we don’t know he was actually a serial killer, he only admitted to being a rapist” Alaska added, I squirmed in my seat, silently thankful the kids were too busy playing video games in their rooms upstairs to hear the conversation. “Oh, well in that case we should have stayed another night then!” I replied dryly, casting my eye over Alaska’s grubby appearance.


We’d fled the serial killer’s that morning still in our pyjamas, choosing to freshen up in the run down shack of a toilet at the first gas station we could find rather than spend another second risking our lives at the house of death.

I realised any effort to make ourselves look presentable had been done in vain. This became apparent when we popped into a department store on the edge of Denver and spent the visit being followed around by a security officer who eventually called the store manager to come and find out what we were doing. Unfortunately, Blonde, Alaska and Geo all chose that exact moment to test the quality of the beds in the home section of the store!

We’d driven further north to a small town sandwiched between Denver and the foot of the Rocky mountains, their jagged edges shadowing the community below. “He might have only been joking ab0ut being a rapist, it was hard to tell” Geo offered, interrupted my thoughts and knocking me back into the present. “Hmmm, I’m not sure he was joking! He sounded pretty serious about it when he was talking about the vortex remember?” Blonde joined in.


Despite the brief pause in tension from our stop over with the serial killer and the rush of warmth I’d felt as the beer cursedthrough my veins, Blonde and I had reprised our growing frustrations with each other as the day had worn on. My blood cooling once again in annoyance as the road carried us higher into the mountains of Colorado. Everyone seemed to be making the effort to remain courteous, afraid of the eggshells they might crack in the car and the risk of another Santa Fe style explosion. We took turns twisting in the passenger seat to talk over our shoulder at the boys in the back, aware the other who was driving felt left out and angry as a result. We’d  barely exchanged a word to each other by the time we arrived at the host’s house.

“Umm so anyway, yeah. Thank you for letting us stay” I turned to the mum, keen to steer the conversation away from talk of rape, serial killers and vortex’s, again thankful that the kids were out of earshot. I shifted uncomfortably on the white sofa “I’m so sorry for how messy we look, we haven’t had a chance to shower properly since a couple of days ago and the house last night wasn’t exactly…sparkling!”. Alaska laughed “yeah, we probably could do with a wash” he flashed a smile at the parents whilst leaning forward to retrieve his drink, a whiff of odour escaping his t-shirt with the effort.

dirty feet

I unconsciously moved a little closer to the edge of the sofa, worrying about what grimy stains we might be leaving on the furniture. “Well, we’ve got running water here, so you can take a shower before dinner…and if you need to wash any clothes…”the mum looked us up and down “we’ve got a large washer downstairs too”. “I think I’ll have a shower” Blonde announced standing before anyone else had a chance to speak or decide unanimously who should get to go first. I gritted my teeth.

“Why don’t we skip the park today? We could have a zero day, just you and me?” Alaska asked, typing his questions out on my phone and passing it back to me the next morning. We were conducting our conversation in silence so as not to wake Blonde and Geo who were still fast asleep on the floor by our feet. They’d declined the option of the water bed offered the night before, preferring Blonde’s camping mattress and some couch cushions. I’d thought the water bed sounded like great fun, picturing myself floating off on a lilo at some resort. I was wrong. Instead, I spent the night being dashed against rocks as Alaska caused the bed to rise and fall with every shift of his body.


“But I want to see the Rockies too!” I typed back “surely Blonde and I could survive the short drive to the national park, we could go on separate hiking paths when we get there?”.  Alaska sighed as he took my phone from my hand “yeah, but you know Blonde will try and get you alone at some point, she wants to talk about the fight in Santa Fe, see what’s happening etc”.

The truth was, I probably did owe Blonde some answers, she was stuck in limbo as to whether the trip would continue or not and I was refusing to communicate. “But I don’t want to talk or make any decisions right now” I bashed the keyboard annoyed that he was making me think about it all. I hadn’t worked it out yet in my head, we weren’t getting on that was clear, everything was annoying me, I was so tired all the time, never a moments peace…. but the thought of continuing the trip alone seemed unfeasible.

driving alone

I didn’t want to be alone, not again, I didn’t want to keep cutting off friendships or hiding from confrontation just because things had become uncomfortable. If I couldn’t make this trip work then how was I ever going to make any friendship or relationship work? What was wrong with me, why couldn’t I just be nice and get on with people like everyone else seems to manage?  Hormones weren’t helping matters, they’d been spiking my mood levels increasingly for days, every look or comment was taken oversensitivity and with intent. I couldn’t think straight, how could Alaska or Blonde possibly think I’d be able to make any rational decisions, and worse, have the patience to explain what I meant?!.

“Well you gotta have that conversation some time” Alaska typed. I pulled the phone back. “She’ll get in a mood again, you know she will! She gets upset every time anyone says anything she doesn’t like the sound of! Plus she still hasn’t sorted out the money, I don’t want to talk about anything until she does that! Don’t you think we should all just have a few days to cool off? Maybe we could talk about this at Geo’s grandparents? Yeah! That’s a great idea! We’ll get there tomorrow and have a couple of days to relax” I passed the phone back and awaited his opinion.

“What are you going to do?” he pushed, turning to face me. The movement of his body caused me to rise and sink with the water in the bed. “I don’t know, I don’t want to ruin the trip for everyone but I’m so frustrated, I feel like I’m going a bit crazy with it all, like all my bad sides are coming out and I’m ruining it for everyone anyway. Everyone thinks I’m a massive bitch!”.



I watched as he read, our noses close enough to touch. His eyes met mine, deep pools of chocolate filled with kindness, I lifted a hand behind my head, Alaska reached up and squeezed my fingers reassuringly before pulling his hand away to type a response, I felt a coldness at the loss of warmth from his touch. “I think you should leave them. They’ll be fine at Geo’s Grandparents. You need to do this trip for yourself, it’s your journey, you need to finish it alone. But I’ll come with you if you want me to” he wrote.

It wasn’t the first time Alaska had suggested him and I leave the other two; somehow he always said it in such a way that it was for my own good and the only real option available to me. It wasn’t until brief moments when everyone else had drifted off and I’d drive in silence, the radio low and my own thoughts filling my head, that I’d be able to try and align my thoughts to what I actually wanted. Alaska’s words pulled me one way but a strange sense of loyalty to Blonde pulled me another. I didn’t know how I felt about any of it, about Blonde and I as friends, about Alaska wanting to be more than friends, how Geo’s presence in the car was having an effect.

road trip

Geo seemed increasingly dishearted by Blonde’s unwillingness to respond to his attention. Unable to direct any frustration at the object of his affection or take it out on his extroverted friend who he had years of foundation with and knowledge that Alaska would not take kindly to any biting remarks, I became the only source to filter his frustration at.

His quiet nature meant any attacks were subtle, so subtle in fact that I thought at first I was being overly sensitive, imagining things. But as the days had dragged by since he’d joined us in Texas, I was becoming increasingly aware. I’m not sure even Geo was conscious to the slight digs, comments and rolls of the eyes made in my direction but I noticed them and after awhile, they were starting to hurt. I mentioned it to Alaska “you’re being paranoid, I’ve not seen anything” he dismissed. That car was like a furnace and every emotion burnt with a flame that would never have ignited outside.

fire road

I was beginning to feel trapped, everything was getting jumbled up. I couldn’t talk to Alaska about how I felt, he’d twist the conversations until I found myself bitching about Blonde as he threw in comments that she’d made in passing, kindling to my fire, anything to get me riled up and then slip in a suggestion that we spend time away from the other two or better yet, leave them completely. Blonde and I could barely be civil with one another, and yet, she increasingly tried to find ways to get me alone and force the conversation I wasn’t ready to have. Geo, probably the most emotionally balanced of all of us, was so in love with Blonde, he was just happy to spend time with her in whatever way he could.

The claustrophobia was so inflamed and inconsequential that I couldn’t find the words to explain to friends back home or seek their comfort at my inner turmoil, aware of how petty everything sounded. ‘Hey, I’m on this amazing trip but everyone is annoying me and I’m a big moaning loser who doesn’t appreciate how lucky I am, feel bad for me and tell me it’ll be ok! Oh, how’s the real world by the way?‘ I pictured myself writing in a Facebook message, mentally deleting it before it was written.  What I needed was a sounding board, someone who wasn’t in that car suffering from an ulterior motive, someone impartial, who’d let me get all the words out of my head and give me time to let them float in the air whilst I tried to rearrange them into some sort of order as they gently guided me, calming me down and helping me act slightly less insane. As ever, I needed my mum.

What I needed was a sounding board, someone who wasn’t in that car suffering from an ulterior motive, but someone impartial. Who’d let me get all the words out of my head and give me time to let them float in the air whilst I tried to rearrange them into some sort of order, all whilst that person gently guided me, calming me down and helping me act slightly less insane. As ever, I needed my mum.

hugging mum

Blonde was in a mood as soon as she woke up, snapping at everyone, annoyed that we were leaving for the national park later than had been planned, unaware that it was her who was making us late as she sat sideways in the car front seat, pumping up her airbed from the car battery. “I wanted to leave an hour ago” she snapped. “Well we’re all ready! You’re the one pumping your bed up. Which makes no sense by the way! You’ll only have to do it again tonight!” I answered back avoiding eye contract.

“I’m only doing this now because I was waiting for the rest of you!”she replied with her back to me whilst I fished out the ice box from the back seat. “We’re ready! You’ve been in the shower for the last hour ago!” I argued back. “You were all on your computers!” she continued. “Because we were waiting for your shorts to dry in the machine and you couldn’t leave without them!” I huffed, storming back to the house. I passed Alaska in the doorway “What’s happening, are we going?” he asked, examining the look on my face. “Ask her!” I pushed past him.

“I’m only doing this now because I was waiting for the rest of you!”she replied with her back to me whilst I fished out the ice box from the back seat. “We’re ready! You’ve been in the shower for the last hour!” I argued. “You were all on your computers!” she continued. “Because we were waiting for your shorts to dry in the machine and you couldn’t leave without them!” I huffed, storming back to the house. I passed Alaska in the doorway “What’s happening, are we going?” he asked, examining the look on my face. “Ask her!” I pushed past him.

mosquito that bit me

We hadn’t spoken on the drive up the mountain road but upon reaching the park and unsure on route timings, we’d decided to stick together. “Agghh, there are mosquitoes up here” Geo swiped at the air. “Just go stand by Becky, they love her, they’ll leave you right alone!” Blonde said, no hint of humour in her voice. As if

As if following instruction, a swarm of mosquitoes gathered around me, dive bombing attacks at my exposed skin. “You’ve actually got a cloud of them following you” Blonde laughed as we started on the dirt trail, her voice softening a little as we climbed through the park. The boys ran ahead, scaling rocks, competing for the fastest route to the top, Alaska’s strong shoulders proved no competition to Geo’s long limbs, as he scaled the boulders ahead like a mountain goat.

mountain goats

Despite the smiles in our group photos, staged at the various beauty spots, a sadness hung over us, the uncertainty of the trip poisoning the air. It weighed down on me as we drove back to the family that evening. I glanced at Blonde in the car, tears sneaking out from under her sunglasses “Are you ok?” I offered. “I’m fine!” she rebutted coldly, turning away to face the window. That

That evening, whilst the rest of us played board-games with the family, Blonde took the car without saying anything, driving off to a coffee shop to write in her diary and call her mum. It annoyed me more than it should have, the rudeness to the family, once again taking the car without even a word or thought the rest of us might want to go somewhere and the fact she could call her mum.

We left for Geo’s grandparents the next day, crossing over the spine of America and officially slipping into the West. With a couple of days to rest (and decide if we would continue on together or go separate ways) we each split up to get some much-needed space from each other.

colorado directions

Whilst Geo and Blonde headed off for hike, Alaska and I ventured into town. They’d both been grating on me all morning, Blonde presumed she could take the car and leave Alaska and I stranded at Geo’s Grandparents for the day “Well we can drop you in town and pick you up this afternoon if you like?” she offered. “Why do you think you automatically get the car?!” I’d snapped.

“We want to go to Aspen and see the ski village, I might come back in the winter and get a job for the ski season. Geo was telling me the roads have underfloor heating” she went on. I rolled my eyes ‘of course, because it will be soooo easy for you to get an American working visa, and you’ll just walk into a ski job despite having only seen snow about twice in your life, and why the hell do they have under-floor heating on the roads anyway!? Can’t the rich people keep their feet warm in their posh boots?!‘ I muttered internally. A compromise was finally established with Geo’s uncle lending them his car.


“There is definitely coffee in it!” I snarled at Alaska, my mood not having improved since the morning’s confrontation. “I’m telling you, I watched him make it, it’s just got white hot chocolate in there” Alaska responded with a deep breath. “Oh, so you know what my taste buds are sensing do you! I’m telling you, there is coffee in here! I can taste it!” I loudly whispered, hoping the other customers hadn’t heard. I shoved the mug across the table, Alaska raised an eyebrow and  stood from his seat, appearing a moment later next to me on the bench, his arm reaching around to embrace me.

“It’s ok” he coo’d as I rolled a shoulder out of his embrace, uncomfortable. “I’m fine! I just, I want to be on my own!” I grumbled, placing my head down to rest on my crossed arms on the table, desperate to find some space in my head. He hugged tighter as hormones flooded my system making me feel like one of those crazy women in newspaper cartoons with steam coming out their ears. “I’ve an idea!” Alaska remarked “come on!!” he headed for the door, pulling me with him.

crystal rocks

“Here” we weree standing on the street corner as he handed me a bag purchased from a nearby tourist shop, I poured out the contents to find a large rock. “What? I don’t get it?” I said confused “I don’t want to play games” I tried to hand the stone back to him. “No, see, throw it at the ground” I did as I was told. “No harder than that!” he encouraged. I tried again, and then again, nothing happened.

“What?! Here let me try”. I watched from a bench as he repeatedly slammed the stone into the ground, tiny flints chipping off with the effort of each throw “it’s supposed to break open and reveal crystals, I thought it might help with you PMT, you know, smashing things open and stuff?” he smiled whilst slamming the rock once more at the ground, it bounced off the pavement, jumping up and ricocheting of the glass front of a shop window “Shitttt” he yelled as I burst out laughing.

He turned at the sound of my giggle, a smile etching across his face but before it could reach his eyes it fell again “You know, you’re going to have to talk to Blonde and Geo about the trip tonight, whether it’s over or not”. I looked at the chips of flint on the ground, letting my eyes fall sadly, still not sure what I should do “I know”.

cookie survival

The serial killer

“Errr….what is this place?!” I stared at the dome-shaped structure, it’s bubble construction looking more at home on the moon than it’s current location on the grassy carpet plains of south Colorado, Eureka mountain acting as a painted backdrop on the horizon, marking the start of the Rockies. The land around the house was littered with broken toys, rusted cars, piles of wood, sheets of plastic and piles of nondescript junk. We were staying on the Cosmic Highway, so named for its many UFO sightings.

moon house.jpg

Blonde and I were still prickling with fever, burning off each other; tension carried along the road from Santa Fe. The boys had advised Blonde to leave me be until I could cool my blood enough to act like a rational person, advice she’d chosen to ignore. On the approach to the Great Sand Dunes national park, located on the border between New Mexico and Colorado, we’d had another spat.

For the first time in two months on the road, Blonde decided to roll her window all the way down, an act I took as an intentional threat to irate me. Just as I was beginning to thaw, and gently singing along to a song, she let the warm air rush in and fill the car with noise. It felt deliberate, my blood soared ‘it’s ok, she’s not doing it on purpose, you’re just being paranoid because of the fight.  Don’t say anything, if she wants the window down she can have the window down. So what if you can barely hear the song, you’ve sung it a thousand times, you know the words. Ughhhh she’s never had the window down before, in fact if I ever put it down she gets annoyed because it messes up the balance when she’s driving, that’s why we always have the air con on instead, plus everything on the back window blows around. Put the window up! No, calm down, you’re almost at the national park, it’s ok, calm down, you’re ok’ I kept telling myself as my knuckles tightened. I caught Geo’s eyes in the mirror, I look of apprehension in the whites of his eye like he knew what was coming.

turning down the radio.jpg

One of the boys asked a question, their voices drowned out by the whirl of the wind, Blonde shot me a sideways look, I thought I detected a smile twitching on the edge of her lips, she leaned towards the radio, spinning the volume dial down. My anger roared, already simmering on my pressure pot level, I spilled over, snapping at her and spinning the music back up. She yelled back. I’d clamped my mouth shut, trying not to fully blow again. The boys winced in the back seat, Alaska shook his head at Blonde.

Once at the park I stalked off to the toilet whilst Blonde complained to the boys at what a cow I was being before being put in her place, having been warned not to antagonise me “but I couldn’t hear what you were saying” she complained in Geo’s direction, “because your window was down and we were going over 80!” interjected Alaska.

cosmic highway.jpg

With the dunes mastered, we drove in silence before arriving at our next’s hosts house, sore and frustrated; a silent conversation held in each of our heads as to how much longer we’d survive together before one of us had the courage to cut the cords. The Cosmic Highway had been a straight line cutting through the flat green; road signs displaying symbols of UFOs with arrows pointing up were the only indication of anything unusual and yet, as we turned onto a dirt road and bubble houses scattered the landscape, a strangeness descended that we couldn’t shake. The unease of our surrounding succeeding in slicing the edge off the tension in the car.

“Becky you can’t get out the car!” one of the boys joked as I parked, I looked out to see mosquitoes swarming the vehicles. “How do they know!” I moaned. “It’s the car, they’re attracted to the fumes and heat of it” Geo responded dryly, not playing the game. The other three left the vehicle as I contemplated what to do, the bugs smashed themselves at the windows, desperate for my blood. I hadn’t been taking the vitamin B tablets that, according to a ‘fisherman’ on a yahoo answers page advised was the best way to keep the suckers away. The tablets had stunk and made my breath smell like a chemist. Whilst the others debated whether anyone was home, I reached for the bottle of pills, an idea having sprung to mind.


“What are you doing!?” Blonde asked, as three doors open and slammed shut around me. “Making a vitamin B paste” I announced whilst continuing to smear white lumpy streaks over my exposed skin. It wasn’t really working as I’d envisaged, the tablets failing to breakdown but I was determined the smell alone would be better than nothing at repelling the mosquitoes.

In the distance a cloud of dust zigzagged across the land, pulling all our attention. The vehicle was moving too fast for the terrain, it tore around corners so fast I felt sure it was in imminent danger of flipping. The dry land flew up in its wake, red dust hanging suspended in shock before disappearing back to the earth. “I think that’s our host” Blonde proposed with knitted brows. We watched in wonder as the tornado approached; with one final spin of the wheel, the truck flipped its back-end round the corner and screeched to a stop next to us, even the mosquitoes were startled!


Fred Freddy leapt from the truck and took a long swig from his beer. Puffs of hair poked from the sides of his worn baseball cap, torn jeans and a ripped shirt covered in a coating of oil, sweat and a patchwork of stains. His face was battered in a way that implied a lack of care, weathered by the seasons. His eyes had a slight bulge to them, a little glassy, but wild with intensity, moving a fraction too fast giving away a lifetime of substance abuse. The ensemble pulled together with a smile full of tombstones. A sense of unpredictability washed off him in waves, we stepped closer together and smiled nervously. A friend, only slightly more refined, climbed out the other side of his vehicle.

“Welcome, welcome, you found it! How long are you here for? You can stay as long as you like, people never want to leave, hell, stay a month if you like!” where most would pause for air, he stopped only for another swig of beer.  He reached back into his truck and pulled out more bottles, cracking them open one by one with his remaining teeth and handing us each a bottle. Geo, a non-drinker, held his uncomfortably, Alaska and I wiped the mouth of the bottles on our t-shirts discreetly before raising the bottles to our lips, Blonde absent-mindedly lifted her own and took a small sip before seeing us wiping ours, I thought for a second she might spit the drink out but, instead, she swallowed it down with a grimace.


The house was made of chicken wire, plywood, and clay; put together in a haphazard way, no real thought given to the layout or structural safety. The four of us squeezed together on the sofa whilst our host sat in an old armchair, his friend choosing a camping chair. Alaska and I took slow sips of our beer, all of us internally debating whether it was really such a good idea to spend the night, each coming to the same conclusion that we were miles from anywhere and didn’t really have a choice. “Drink up!” encouraged our host, throwing his second empty bottle over his shoulder, letting it smash on a pile of rubbish behind him. “Oh, we should start dinner” the friend stated, with Fred Freddy distracted, I reached over and grabbed Geo’s beer, swapping it for my own empty one, saving him from any further bullying. Blonde nudged hers towards me, trying not to bring any attention to the fact she too didn’t want to drink hers either. With Fred Freddy still looking at the other direction, I swapped Alaska’s empty bottle with Blonde’s.

“Drink up!” encouraged our host, throwing his second empty bottle over his shoulder, letting it smash on a pile of rubbish behind him. “Oh, we should start dinner” the friend stated, with Fred Freddy distracted, I reached over and grabbed Geo’s beer, swapping it for my own empty one, saving him from any further bullying. Blonde nudged hers towards me, trying not to bring any attention to the fact she too didn’t want to drink. With Fred Freddy still looking at the other direction, I swapped Alaska’s empty bottle with Blonde’s.

chicken wire walls.jpg

“Sorry, could I please use your toilet?” I enquired, whilst the host attempted to light the outdoors camping stove inside the house. “Sure, sure thing, the bathrooms just behind here” I squeezed between two walls and found myself on a step in one of the bubbles of the house, a dirt floor, chicken wire walls stuffed with newspaper for insulation, the back of the groups heads visible through the holes. The floor was scattered with old toys, dead plants, broken furniture, toilet paper and various clutter. And then there, in the middle of the room, stood the toilet.

To be precise, it wasn’t exactly a toilet, more a toilet seat attached to four legs. A roll of toilet paper was perched nearby on an old dresser, which was sinking into the ground, held up by two legs. I laughed, believing this to be a joke. It wasn’t. “Don’t you? Don’t you have running water? Or an outhouse?” I despaired, wondering how many mosquito bites I’d suffer to the bum if the outhouse was the only option. “So I just pee on the floor? In the house? Right here? On the floor?”. I tried to cross my legs, to tell myself I didn’t need to go but several beers and a day of driving simply couldn’t be contained. With instructions for my friends not to turn their heads, I tiptoed out to the chair, wishing I had worn boots and not flip flops, and then, pee’d through the chair I did!

the toilet of doom.jpg

The host and his friend were still tinkering with the outdoors stove when I returned, a strong smell of gas filling the living room when suddenly, ‘BOOM’, a ball of fire erupted off the stove into the face of the host and his friend, singed eyebrows, both.

The host moved to his computer and began to play music via youtube “how do you have internet here?”I questioned, privately wondering how wifi had become more of a necessity than running water. “Solar panels” came the reply. As the food cooked, our host explained how he came to live in such a unique place. “I was training to be a doctor in Germany but I was carried out the university in handcuffs. And I met a girl, from eastern Europe, we got married but she’s a bitch. I’ve got two kids in their teens. My two kids have just started school. They got taken away from me the other week because I don’t have running water. I was living in Mexico. I’m not allowed to go further than a five-mile radius of my house, the courts, because of the kids” none of it was making any sense to us. I turned to his friend, “so how about you?”.

His story was slightly clearer, he’d been working in technology in San Francisco and wanted out of the rat race, he moved over to Colorado when they legalised cannabis and had been building his own house nearby ever since.

weed shirtThe host interrupted “yeah, we’ve got some projects together”. I glanced at the small potted plants leading up the stairs, the seven-fingered leaf so familiar on t-shirts in certain areas of cities. “I’ve got 200 pot plants in the forest” Fred Freddy announced with a wink. “Cool, can we go and see them tomorrow?” Blonde sprung to life “that sounds so magical”. “Err it’s not those kind of pot plants!” I spoke out of the side of my mouth to Blonde. “What do you mean?” she asked loudly, ignoring any of my attempted subtlety.

“It’s not potted plants” I looked at her meaningfully “it’s pot plants” I tried to explain, she looked at me confused. “You know, Pot? Cannabis!”. “Ohhhhh!” realisation finally descending “oh, I thought you meant pot plants, like pots of daisies” she offered innocently, I silently facepalmed. “What?” she’d caught the roll of my eyes “in Australia, pot plants are, like houseplants, I didn’t know it was something different here”. “It’s not something different here, it’s just, it’s the term when it’s used in context, oh never mind!” I gave up.

back garden.jpg

The food was ready, various unknown meats sizzled on the stove which continued to emit unpleasant gases. “I’m not really hungry, yeah me too, I ate in the car” chorused the other three, the hosts face fell slightly, I felt unappreciative, and English, damn those manners! Reluctantly I accepted a blackened sausage and nibbled at it tentatively, hoping I wouldn’t get food poisoning and be forced to throw up through the toilet seat hole.

The boys left Blonde and I alone with the host to go get some bags from the car, “watch out for the goat” called the friend “the big one’s mean!”.

Blonde and I sat nervously, not having moved away from each other despite the boys departure and the freed up space on the sofa. “Oh! Oh, I have a gift for you” announced the host, leaping from his chair and disappearing, his friend continuing to tinker with the cooking meat. “This is weird, what if they’re serial killers” I joked to Blonde out of earshot, before she could reply, the host had returned.

“Here you go” he said, handing us each a bearded doll we presumed to be Jesus and his disciple. The dolls were clearly old; filthy looking and with the exception of a pair of flip-flops, naked. “You can put them in the car with you, like mascots!” the host bubbled excitedly. “Oh, wow, yeah, wow, thank you” Blonde and I sputtered for want of anything better to say, holding the dolls at arm’s length.

jesus doll

Mean-while the boys were outside, laughing about the oddness of the situation. “Dude, I swear not all couch surfing is like this! This place is nuts!” Alaska tried to reassure Geo. “I like it, I think it’s cool here” Geo replied to Alaska’s surprise. At that moment, a large goat, who’d been watching from a pile of rubble in the corner, saw his chance.

“Watch out” yelled Geo just in time, Alaska spun around and caught the charging goat by one horn. With beer in one hand, horn in the other, Alaska and goat locked themselves into battle. “Piss off!” Alaska yelled as the goat wrestled and beer spilt. Geo grabbed the bags, the goat turned, pulled from the grip of Alaska and headed for Geo. “Oh no you don’t!” Alaska dropped his beer and stepped into the line of power between Geo and goat, grabbing the beast by both horns. Heads turned down, shots of war fired from both sets of eyes.

angry goat

“Fuck that goat, man!” Alaska’s voiced carried as the front door opened. “Look, we’ve got dolls!” I yelled maniacally, trying to hide how pleased I was at the boys return.

The more the host drank, the louder the music got and the more he sang; that was, until the power cut out. We sat in the dark a while as the host continued to sing along to the music in his head until Alaska announced it was time for bed. With the help of our phone lights, we prepared ourselves for bed “I’ve got plenty of spare sheets” offered the hosts pointing to piles of dusty fabric piled up in a corner. “Thanks but we’ve actually got our own sleeping bags so we’re all good” I responded, giving my Yellowstone sleeping bag a small, thankful hug. Alaska and I settled into a two seater sofa located in a bubble annex off the main living space. We folded our limbs over each other, head to tails and tried to shut out the host’s singing who remained seated next to Blonde and Geo, who had pulled out the sofa bed.

“What’s that banging?” I raised my head from the folded up jumper I was using as a pillow, through the chicken wire window stood the goat. His eyes locked on Alaska, slowly he lowed his head and knocked against the window “fuck that goat” muttered Alaska sleepily.


In the living room, the host was talking about the local area “yeah, there’s this place nearby that has these crystals under the ground and they form a vortex and if you fall into the vortex then you never need to sleep again. I’ll take my mate there one day but not yet, I don’t trust his girlfriend, he needs to dump that bitch first, yeah. Yeah then I’ll take him  to the vortex” he paused and swigged the dregs of his beer before cracking another open “hey, we should light a fire, for some light”.

The friend and the host moved around in the dark to find the wood burner and set about trying to light it. “Errr are you sure everything is ok?” Blonde asked nervously, she coughed “there seems to be quite a lot of smoke”. A strange smell was filling the house when Fred Freddy realised something “hey, I think that dead bunny carcass is still in there, oh yeah, that’ll be what’s smoking!”. Blonde burst into a fit of coughs “a dead bunny?” she choked. “Yeah, didn’t I tell ya, I keep rabbits too? Yeah, Angora rabbits, furs worth a fortune but the fuckers die really easily from stress”. I was beginning to realise what the meat had been.

With the fire a lost cause, the host returned to his arm chair and started singing two lines of Bob Marley, then deciding, sharing a story would be more interesting. “Yeah, the fuckers took my kids off me the other week, said it was coz of the water but it’s the local’s down in the village, they don’t like me. I got accused of raping a fifteen-year-old five times, almost got put away for life but not enough evidence so I got off with community service” it wasn’t clear whether he was confessing to his crime or declaring his innocent, Blonde grasped at Geo’s arm in the dark, squeezing tightly.


The friend eventually went home; with no one left to interact with, Fred Freddy admitted defeat and climbed the stairs to bed. I laid awake, the goat continued to butt the window, mosquitoes swarmed around my head and the scratching of mice rang along the walls. Every stretch of my limbs hit Alaska in the face, torso or groin; I tried to stay still but instantly cramped.

The floor creaked overhead and footsteps descended on the stairs, I clamped my eyes shut, convinced if he knew I was awake he’d want a conversation. My ears pricked as he approached the sofa bed, I followed his footsteps whilst he walked around the edge of the bed and leaned over Geo who was snoring softly. The steps started again, he traced the edge of the bed and paused over Blonde, leaning down, the goat butted, pulling the hosts attention. He approached the annex, stopping a foot from the two-seater, Alaska and I tangled in an uncomfortable tetris. The goat butted again and Fred Freddy’s footsteps fell away, returning upstairs. I opened my eyes, rolling over to see everyone else sound asleep, completely unaware of the surreal-ness of the night.


The sun dazzled through the chicken wire at 5am, I lay twisted and uncomfortable for an hour or so until Fred Freddy felt it time we all awake and with the solar power restored, blasted his music so loud it blew the speakers and left us in silence again. He cracked a beer and loomed over us screaming “five dead baby bunnies, I’ve got five dead baby bunnies!” Blonde jumped awake. “Do you want one for the car? You can have a dead baby bunny for the car!” Fred Freddy announced excitedly. Alaska sat up and rubbed his eyes, the goat who had given up bashing the window around 3am was back, ramming with renewed enthusiasm. Alaska looked at the goat, blinked unamused and leaned into my ear “don’t get dressed, don’t use the toilet, just get your stuff and let’s get out of here!”.

Five minutes later the four of us were piled in the car, luggage on laps, pj’s still on and causing our own dust cloud as Fred Freddy waved us off with a swig of his beer.

get out of here